You can turn it off… for now
Instagram is continuing to build out its messaging section with a new feature that’s already found in popular apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. From the direct messages screen, people you follow or have previously chatted with can now see when you were last using Instagram.
The new “Show Activity Status” option is enabled by default inside of Instagram’s settings. You can choose to toggle it off if you don’t think anyone really needs to be that up-to-date on what you’re doing. But if you disable activity status for yourself, you won’t be able to see that info for anyone else. It’s possible that Instagram is only testing this feature for a certain number of users, but it’s available for several people I’ve asked to check across both Android and iOS.
To be very clear, your followers cannot see when you were most recently on Instagram. Only people you follow or have previously DM’d will see how many minutes or hours ago you were scrolling through your feed. Some of my friends simply show as having been “active today,” but on the flip side, it does get specific enough to display “active now” when you’re using the app at that precise moment. Again, if you don’t like people knowing this sort of thing, turn off the feature in settings.
I’m generally fine with apps indicating when you were last active. On Instagram, it makes sense since you might be chatting with businesses or creative professionals and want some idea of how quick they might be in responding. That said, I think a way to opt out should be mandatory — and thankfully Instagram gives you one. To my knowledge, there’s no option to turn off activity status in Facebook Messenger, where friends can always see how recently you’ve been online. Nor can you disable read receipts. Instagram is also guilty of the latter; DMs always show as “seen” once recipients have opened them.
But we should be able to relax and waste time in Instagram’s awful algorithmic feed without the world knowing about it.