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Instagram could let you read messages without being seen

Instagram is finally getting a privacy-oriented feature that has long been available on WhatsApp and Twitter (Instagram)
Instagram is finally getting a privacy-oriented feature that has long been available on WhatsApp and Twitter (Instagram)

The advent of read receipts on almost every social media app has resulted in some bad online habits. Sensitive friends expect you to be available at all hours to respond to their messages. Parents worry when you don’t reply immediately. Even worse, your contacts can check when you were last seen on WhatsApp.

It almost makes you long for the days of texts and emails, when people had no choice but to be patient.

Which is why turning off read receipts can be a liberating experience. And soon, Instagram could catch up to the likes of Twitter and WhatsApp by introducing the feature.

The option to disable the “seen” status in direct messages was spotted by reputable leaker Alessandro Paluzzi. The feature will lurk inside the privacy and safety section in your Instagram settings. That’s the same place where you can set messages to disappear when you close chats.

Paluzzi has previously outed a bunch of upcoming Instagram features and services, including its Twitter rival Threads and paid verification.

Needless to say, the new option could be useful if you need some downtime from a clogged inbox. Of course, this being Instagram, people will still be able to tell if you’re online (and ignoring them) when you post photos or stories. But, that’s the double-edged sword of social media: privacy controls only go so far in hiding your activity.

So why is it taking so long for Instagram to launch an otherwise ubiquitous feature? Well, ultimately DMs don’t appear to be a priority for the platform. As Instagram boss Adam Mosseri recently noted on the 20VC podcast, Instagram isn’t a “messaging app”. As a result, its focus has been on the posts you see in your feed and the explore tab, including recommended content and short videos known as Reels.

Still, Instagram has been forced to take notice of DMs of late. Along with stories, most of the growth on the app has come from messaging, Mosseri admitted. To capitalise on that momentum, Instagram has devoted more resources to DMs in recent years, he revealed.

In fact, teens accustomed to private messaging apps like Snapchat spend more time messaging on Instagram than they do on their feeds, Mosseri said. That may explain why the platform recently launched disappearing status updates, dubbed “notes”, that you can share via DMs. And, why it’s said to be introducing end-to-end encryption to more users in the coming weeks.

Disabling seen receipts would be the icing on the cake.