Does Instagram Notify the Other Person If You Take a Screenshot of a DM?
Communication in the electronic age is an ever-changing set of technologies that in turn cause an ever-changing set of social norms and expectations. It doesn’t matter what the new technology is – every time the tech changes, human behavior patterns change either a little or a lot to manage the new toys. Older readers may remember a time when if you wanted to talk to someone, you picked up the phone and called them unannounced – and they would always pick up if they possibly could. Today someone who acted that way and who expected people to answer his or her calls would be considered rude – one texts first, and gets permission to call, unless it is an absolute emergency. And even then a caller expects voicemail, not a live person. Online communications via apps and social media platforms are evolving at an even faster pace than other forms of communication tech, a process that is driven by changing technology and changing social acceptance of how things are done.
When Internet-based communication was first developed, one of the underlying principles was that what you put up on the Internet would stay there, or somewhere, forever. E-mails get stored to databases, your posts on a site like Reddit or Facebook stay there forever, and even when there are tools to delete our old content, a plethora of Internet archives and backup sites make accessing what we said “back in the day” anywhere from easy to trivial. In addition, even our private communications are subject to being archived; when we send personal messages, photos or videos, there is a chance that the person on the other end will keep them. Accordingly, many of us try to be more careful in online conversations than in offline ones. The fact is that there are many messages or files that we may want to send or share, but that we do not want to have as a part of the eternal archive of our lives.
There have arisen entire social media platforms based around the idea of transient communications, in fact. Apps like Snapchat were based on the principle that all messages, pictures and videos would self-destruct after being seen by the recipient. Other platforms, while not going to the same extreme, also accommodate the desire for privacy by offering temporary message or photo sharing. These services offer messages that self-delete after a certain (short) period of time, or after being read or accessed a given number of times. Instagram, the world’s leading photo and video sharing platform, has also implemented a form of this mechanism. In Instagram you can send direct messages to other users that include live photos or videos and you can specify that those photographs and videos can be played only once or twice before they self-destruct.
However, the nature of smartphones and computers, both of which can be used to access Instagram, is such that taking a screenshot of your phone or computer display is a trivially simple task – the power button + the volume down button on Android, the side button + the home button on iOS, or ctrl-alt-print screen in Windows, and a recording is made of the screen. This can completely undermine the whole idea of a self-destructing picture. This leads to the question – if someone takes a screenshot of an Instagram photo, video, DM, or post, does Instagram inform the other user?
In this article I will answer this question.
Screenshots and Direct Messaging on Instagram
Instagram users can send each other text messages, photos or videos using the direct message (DM) function of the app. The DM menu is accessed via the little paper-airplane on the upper=-right corner of the screen. A direct message in Instagram can have one of many different message types: plain text (like a standard SMS text message), text with a graphical background, recorded sound, a photo or video from the gallery, a GIF file from the built-in library, a quick reply (pre-entered text to make handling large quantities of standardized messages easy), and hearts (a simple graphic of a red heart), or a live (freshly-taken) photo or video.
Most types of DMs sent via Instagram are permanent DMs. They stay in the recipient’s inbox forever, until the recipient deletes them or Instagram’s servers disintegrate in the far far future. However, messages sent containing a live photo or video can be designated as one-view or two-view disappearing messages, meaning that the photograph or video can be viewed once before it becomes inaccessible, or can be viewed twice before it becomes inaccessible, or they can be permanent.
You Don’t Get Notified If Someone Screenshots Most Instagram Content
For normal DMs of any sort, as well snapshots and video posts and stories, the recipient or the sender can screenshot the message or the image or a frame of the video, and Instagram does not take notice that anything was done. This permanent content can be archived freely by any participant in the conversation, and Instagram doesn’t inform you if that happened. Text messages can also be copied to the clipboard without any notification.
On Instagram you do have the option to Unsend a DM at any point, even after the recipient has read it. If your recipient has already made a screenshot, the damage is done. To Unsend a message, tap on it and then select the Unsend option.
You Do Get Notified If Someone Screenshots Your Disappearing DM – Theoretically
If one party in a conversation screenshots a disappearing DM using the system method for taking a screenshot (swiping down on iOS, or simultaneously holding down the power and volume down keys on Android, then the other party will receive a notification. Look for a circular “starburst” icon next to the DM you sent, and a popup notification on the DM screen of the recipient that lasts for about two seconds before fading out. However, in our tests as of August 2019, we had significant difficulty in getting Instagram to actually notice the screenshots and produce the notifications. About one time in five, the app would catch what it should have been catching every time. Accordingly, don’t rely overmuch on this notification system, at least at the present time.
In this image, the recipient viewed both disappearing DMs, but only took a screenshot of the second one:
If you tap on the notification icon, you can Unsend your DM. But you can also view its Details.
If you select Details, you’ll find out when the screenshot was taken. You’ll also see who took it, which is useful in a group conversation.
Instagram Does Not Send Notifications If Someone Screenshots Your Story
Like the disappearing DMs, Instagram stories are designed to be temporary. When the story function first appeared, anyone was free to screenshot your stories without you knowing about it. But in early 2018, Instagram changed this. However, several months later, the feature was pulled, and has not appeared since.
Are Screenshot Notifications Useful?
What are the pros and cons of sending out notifications when someone takes a screenshot of your conversation? Since taking screenshots is a stock function that comes with every smartphone, Instagram can’t block it altogether. However, notifications (and knowing that notifications are sent) tends to discourage the taking of screenshots of temporary messages.
A Final Word
There are many different approaches to commication via direct messaging. Some people choose their words with care. They avoid saying anything that could be used against them. For example, they never complain about their workplace or their personal life, because those statements could be incriminating if they were taken out of context. Others prefer to trust the discretion of the person they’re messaging. This usually works out, but unpleasant surprises are still too common.
Having your personal messages made public is always a harrowing experience. But it’s even worse when the messages you sent were in the form of an image or video. Even if you avoid sending anything particularly sensitive, it’s very unpleasant to see your recordings used without your permission. Compared to Instagram, Snapchat still gives you more detailed information about how others interact with your content. But Instagram is constantly adding new features. In the future, you might also receive notifications when people screenshot your regular DMs.
TechJunkie has lots of Instagram tutorials and how-tos.
We can teach you how to take a screenshot in Instagram.
We’ll explain whether or not people can detect screenshots of Instagram stories and posts.
We can show you how to purge all your Instagram DMs.
We have a guide on how to delete and unsend a DM before the recipient sees it.
Here’s our walkthrough on how to detect whether someone deleted your DM.