How Does Instagram Know My Friends and Who to Suggest?
With the rapid growth of social media and the internet, privacy may seem like a dwindling concept today. People are sharing almost everything on social media, from their recent vacation to what they had for breakfast that morning; we’ve gotten more and more used to everyone knowing about everything we do.
But how exactly do these suggestions work? Social media apps are improving with these suggestions every year, even detecting and suggesting people who don’t seem connected to you on any other social media. While your inner circle of active friends is easier to detect, as your social media and sharing frequently involve them, it gets more complex as it reaches the edges of your social circles.
How Do Suggested Friends Show Up?
There’s no need to worry – social media is not stalking you everywhere you go, or is it? Rumors have sprung up in recent years of Facebook and other apps tracking users’ locations in correlation to others and using that to suggest potential friends – but for this article, we’ll assume that the developers are just getting better at making the algorithms. The algorithms that work toward providing you with fresh and relevant friend suggestions take numerous factors into consideration, including:
- Linked Social Media Accounts – Since Facebook owns Instagram, it does not come as a surprise these two social media apps are tightly intertwined. If you friend somebody on Facebook, they will frequently appear as a suggestion on Instagram soon afterward. Similarly, if you follow someone on Instagram, they will often appear on your Facebook friend suggestions.
- Phone Contacts – Instagram will also use your phone’s contacts to make friend suggestions. When you link your contacts to your Instagram account, your contacts who have connected to Instagram will suggest them as potential people for you to follow. Even if you don’t have that user in your contacts, they may have you in theirs.
- Search History – If you recently searched for someone on Instagram and spent time looking at their profile without following them, they will appear as a suggestion later. The algorithm also considers time spent on their profile, linked pictures, and other factors here.
- Hashtag Use – If you use many of the same hashtags as someone else in your posts, and those hashtags are niche enough, they will likely appear in your suggested friend list.
- Mutual Friends – Instagram often suggests you follow people with many mutual friends. The more mutual friends you have with a person, the more likely they will appear in your list of suggested friends.
Some computer algorithms have become so good that it seems like the program is stalking you. In terms of social media as a profit-hungry industry, they’d be likelier to stalk information for marketing purposes than a helpful feature like friend suggestions.
How To Access Friend Suggestions
How do I see my suggested friends, though? Well, there are two easy ways to check Instagram’s latest recommendations for you:
Find “Suggested for You” In Your Feed:
- Log in to the Instagram mobile app. Then, tap on your Profile icon in the lower right corner.
- Select See All in the discover section.
- Or, you can click your Following list and scroll to the bottom.
- Click on Find People to Follow.
- Scroll through the list to discover friends’ friends, your Facebook friends, and other recommendations.
If you follow either method outlined above, you should be able to see a list of users that Instagram suggests you follow. New suggestions occasionally appear as Instagram improves its algorithm and picks up more of your social circles. On the top of the Discover People page, you’ll have the option to connect your Instagram account to other social media accounts or your phone contacts for Instagram to provide you with better and more relevant suggestions for who to follow.
To see which one of your Facebook or phone contacts is on Instagram without waiting for them to be suggested, you can navigate to the Contacts tab on the Discover People page.
On this page, you’ll see the total number of Instagram contacts. You can even follow them all at once. If you’ve already requested to follow them or are already following them, you’ll see “Requested” or “Following” next to their names.
How to Disable Friend Suggestions
If you dislike this feature, don’t worry, there is an easy way to get rid of it. Visit a web browser (this isn’t an option in the app) and do this:
- Navigate to your profile on the bottom right.
- Tap on Edit Profile near the top of the screen.
- Uncheck the box next to Similar account suggestions. Then, Submit.
You can also manually delete suggestions. Do this:
- Find the Suggested friends section in your Instagram feed. Then, tap the x in the upper right corner of each friend.
- Tap See All to view all your suggested friends.
- Tap the x next to each suggestion.
Instagram’s goal is to keep you interacting with people so your suggestion list will populate again. But you can delete the people you don’t want to befriend.
What Does Instagram Know About You?
There is a lot of conjecture on how Instagram suggests friends who aren’t even in people’s contacts. People you don’t get along with and haven’t spoken to in a very long time. So, it’s normal to be weary about what information Instagram collects.
You probably already know that Instagram collects your name, email address, and contacts because it asks for them when you initiate service. But Instagram also gathers information from related companies (like Facebook) to enhance user experience, and it collects information about your friends and their activities too. This could explain why you see the incredibly odd suggestions that you do. For example, if your friend on Facebook tags, likes, or comments on someone’s Facebook post, then they comment on your Instagram post, Instagram may suggest that person as a friend.
The company also collects information about the device you’re using. So, if you have two separate Instagram accounts, the company may see the friends on one account and suggest them on another. This could explain why you have eerily accurate suggestions on a completely unrelated account.
The Privacy Question
Is Instagram stalking us and who we socialize with, or are they just trying to make our lives easier? Sometimes it seems too coincidental not to assume that Instagram is, in fact, using your location or some other method to suggest friends. For example, if you go to a cookout and meet a friend of a friend, they’ll likely show up as your suggested friends within a matter of days.
Either way, the suggestions are a nice, convenient feature of Instagram that allows us to check out new people to follow. They can even help you expand your social circles if that’s your goal! If you do not want Instagram to show you these suggestions, or if you don’t want to appear in other peoples’ suggested friends, you can even simply turn this feature off.
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