Instagram will 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)

Instagram plans to let you disable read receipts on direct messages, according to platform CEO Adam Mosseri.

Mosseri announced the feature is in testing, through his Instagram channel, and showed a screenshot of what it’s likely to look like when it finally arrives.

“We’ve heard your feedback and started testing a new feature that allows you to turn off the read status. In the near future, people won’t have to show others when they’ve been seen,” Mosseri said.

As any Instagram addict will know, you can currently see whether someone has read or seen your direct messages, and there’s no way to turn that off.

A switch for this feature will be found in the Settings menu of the Instagram phone apps. Mosseri’s screenshots suggest you can expect it to pop up on iPhones before Androids, if the two platforms don’t get the upgrade at the same time.

The latest Android version of Instagram hasn’t received this switch yet, so when is it coming? We know nothing more than the suggestion it will arrive “in the near future".

This situation played out in reverse over in at WhatsApp, which has one of the most iconic implementations of the read receipt.

WhatsApp launched in 2009, and its sent and “seen” icons were only introduced five years later in 2014.

By the looks of it, Instagram’s read receipts toggle is going to be a simple one. The released screenshots show a simple on/off toggle, with no sign of letting you control these receipts per person. However, it's sure to ease social networking anxiety in some folks.

Why? 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.

The option to disable the “seen” status in direct messages was originally spotted by reputable leaker Alessandro Paluzzi back in August.

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

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 has it taken so long for Instagram to launch an otherwise ubiquitous feature? Ultimately, DMs don’t appear to be a priority for the platform. As Instagram boss Adam Mosseri 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.