How Does Instagram Know My Friends and Who to Suggest?

Posted by Anna Middleton on May 10, 2019

Being on any form of social media can feel uncomfortable from time to time. It may seem like the app actually keeps track of the people you meet. Instagram is no exception. Sometimes you get suggestions to follow people who you barely know or even people you never heard of before.

How exactly does this work? All big social media apps are getting better at pinpointing the social circles of their users. Your inner circle is not that hard to detect, because most of the content you share on social media involves them, i.e. when you tag or mention them.

As for the other people who pop up in your suggestions, they are most likely coming from your friends, search histories, contacts, other social media accounts, and so on.

How Does Instagram “Know” It All

There’s no need to worry – social media is not spying on you. Its developers are just getting better at programming the algorithms. This algorithm for follower suggestions consists of many parameters, such as:

  1. Your linked social media accounts – Since Facebook actually owns Instagram, it does not come as a surprise these two social media giants are intertwined. If you friend somebody on Facebook, they will also appear as a follower suggestion on your Instagram, in case they have an account there. Similarly, if you follow someone on Instagram, they will appear on your FB friend suggestions.
  2. Your phone contacts – Instagram will also integrate your mobile contacts into its tailored suggestions for you. If your contact has an Instagram profile connected to their number, you will be able to find and follow them. This article explains how to do that below.
  3. Your search history – If you searched for somebody’s profile and you are not following them, they will appear as a suggestion later on. The algorithm also accounts for your interests and the posts you liked.
  4. Use of hashtags – You can get a friend suggestion based on the hashtags on your profile or your posts.
  5. Mutual friends – Instagram often suggests friends of a friend to you. If you have one or more mutual connections with a person, they will likely appear higher on your list of suggestions.

How to Access Friend Suggestions

Here are two really easy methods you can use to find suggested profiles on Instagram.

Find “Suggested for You” in your news feed:

  1. Log into your Instagram account on the mobile app.
  2. Right at the start of your feed, after the first or the second post, you will see Suggested for You, which will show you a list of profiles to follow.
  3. You can swipe or scroll to find more, or simply select “See All”, which should be in the top right corner of the suggestions.

Instagram Suggested for you

Use the “Discover People” option on your profile:

  1. Log into your Instagram account.
  2. Go to your profile.
  3. In the top right corner, above Followers and Following, you will see three stripes. Tap on that and you will find the option to Discover People.

Instagram options

Find People

If you followed the steps mentioned above, you should see the list of All Suggestions at the center of your screen. New Suggestions will be above that. At the top, you will have the option to connect your Instagram and Facebook accounts. You can also choose to merge your phone contacts if you have not already done so.

Instagram Suggested

You can select the Contacts tab at the top right of your screen to browse and follow your FB or phone contacts. You will see the total number of contacts you can connect with at the top, and you can choose the option to Follow All. If you already sent follow requests to your contacts, you will see “Requested” next to their name – or Following if they accepted.

Instagram Contacts

How to Disable Friend Suggestions

If you dislike this feature, don’t worry, there is an easy way to get rid of it. Here is how:

  1. Log into your Instagram account.
  2. Enter your profile.
  3. Tap on Edit Profile.
  4. At the bottom, you will find “Similar account suggestions”. Just tap it to disable the feature.

The Privacy Question

Is Instagram stalking us or simply giving us convenient options? Share your opinion on this question in the comments.

Either way, the suggestions are one of Instagram’s less invasive feature. They can help you expand your social network if that is your goal. If you do not want to appear in other people’s suggested friends, you can simply turn it off.

2 thoughts on “How Does Instagram Know My Friends and Who to Suggest?”

Curious says:
If I see someone in my suggested follow list, can they see me in theirs?
Karina says:
Why do my top suggestions change randomly ?

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