How to Make Instagram Account Public or Private? Why Switch?

Here’s everything about how to make Instagram accounts public and private and why some switch frequently:

Some Instagram accounts routinely switch back and forth from private to public and back again because it is an easy way to automatically accept follow requests.

When you switch from private to public, all requests are approved and stay that way when you switch back.

This allows private accounts to have a large following.

So if you want to learn all about why exactly people switch their Instagram accounts, then this article is for you.

Let’s get right into it!

What Is a Public Instagram Account?

Young woman recording on a smart phone her vlog about healthy eating and nutritional supplements. She makes her Instagram account public and private frequently for professional reasons.

Before we can talk about switching back and forth between public and private accounts, we should probably ensure that everyone knows what a private or public Instagram account is in the first place.

To that end, let’s talk about public accounts first.

When you create an Instagram account, as long as you are 16 or over, you are creating a public account by default.

You can change that, and I’ll explain how it all works later, but the fact is that Instagram accounts default to being public in the first place.

What this means is that anyone who uses Instagram can follow your account, whether you know them or not, and whether you want them to follow you or not.

Now, a public account still has privacy settings.

You can still block users and try to control how your content is seen, but the big important difference between public and private accounts comes down to following.

While your account is public, anyone who finds it can click the follow button.

That’s on purpose, by the way.

Public Instagram accounts are much better for building a following, getting exposure, and building up an online network.

Since Instagram is a social media platform, growing a following is kind of the point.

That’s why Instagram tries to make it easy by default.

What About a Private Instagram Account?

Pretty African-American woman using her smartphone in bed trying to make her Instagram account public

But, not everyone on Instagram actually wants to build a following.

Some people use the app to keep in touch with select friends and family.

Others just use it to save and store photos that they take.

When building a following isn’t important to you, you might favor a private account instead of public on Instagram.

There are a lot of specific ways that a private account differs from a public account, but the primary difference is what I already mentioned.

When someone wants to follow your private account, they can still hit the button, but they won’t automatically follow you.

Instead, you will get a request from them that they want to follow your account, and you can approve or decline that request as you see fit.

This is really the crux of the whole thing.

Also: Follow Request on Instagram Canceled: What Others Know?

When someone doesn’t want random strangers following their account, they may suddenly make their Instagram private, and then they can explicitly determine who does and does not have access to their account and their content.

What Does Switching Instagram Accounts Back and Forth Mean?

Young pretty woman looking at her phone looking into how to make her Instagram account private.

Now that you know that there are differences between the types of accounts, what does it really mean when you switch?

Well, you can switch in two different directions, and that decision will come with some specific consequences.

Let’s say you have a public Instagram account and want to suddenly make it private.

We’ll talk about motivations a little later.

For now, it’s enough that this is something you want to do.

When you take a public Instagram account private, anyone who is currently following the account will still be a follower after the switch.

It doesn’t set the slate clean, so to speak.

The main thing that happens is that new followers will need your express permission before they can follow your content.

Also, some of your default settings will change when you go private, and it will be a lot harder for people who are not following to find and see your account.

You can adjust those settings as you see fit, but by default, private accounts live up to the name and make it harder for people to find you online.

On the other hand, you might decide to take a private account public on Instagram.

When you do this, your account will automatically accept any pending follow requests.

It will not automatically accept follow requests that you declined. It only pushes through the ones that you didn’t respond to.

Additionally, default settings do change, and unless you go in and adjust them, your account will be easier to find on Instagram, and your posts will be visible to users across the platform.

How Do You Switch an Instagram Account Back and Forth?

Red haired woman using her tablet

That’s the gist of what you can expect if and when you change between private and public settings on Instagram, but it leaves an important question.

How do you actually make this change?

I’ll post the formal Instagram instructions here, but I’ll also walk you through the steps.

It’s not too hard:

  • Go to your profile
  • Tap on your settings
  • Tap the word “Privacy”
  • Tap the toggle next to Private Account

Pay attention to the toggle.

If a blue color fills in the space, it means that your account is currently private.

If there is no blue color and the toggle appears empty, it means that the account is currently public.

You can toggle back and forth as you see fit.

Why Is Switching an Instagram Account Back and Forth Limited? (2 Reasons)

Pretty Asian woman  in a bright red blouse looking at her phone by a window

At this point, we’ve covered what it means for an account to be public or private, what happens when you switch, and how to switch.

That doesn’t really answer the original question.

What’s the deal with accounts switching back and forth?

There are a few things that this could mean, but one might have to do with Instagram behavior. 

It turns out that if you switch your account between public and private a bunch of times, you might get flagged, suspended, or even banned from Instagram.

What is that all about?

Why would such action be taken?

Well, there are really two reasons.

Well, there’s one major reason and another minor reason.

Let’s explore them both.

#1 Bot Accounts

Man working late at night on the computer

This is really what it comes down to.

There are a lot of bot accounts on Instagram, but Instagram largely tries to get rid of any bots that it can find.

The general idea is that bots lower the average quality of experience for Instagram users.

What does that have to do with switching between public and private on your Instagram account?

Well, as you know, when you take an account public, it automatically accepts follow requests.

In fact, switching this way is the fastest and easiest way to manage follow requests for a private account.

Since this is an easy way to do things, it’s also the way that people program a lot of bots.

If you switch between private and public a bunch, it might trigger flags that are looking for bot-like behavior.

Even though you’re not a bot, Instagram systems are mistaking you for one, and that can lead to frustrating problems.

#2 Hacking

Hacker using computer virus for cyber attack

To a lesser degree, hacking behaviors can also set off flags.

It’s not entirely common that a hacked account would switch between private and public a bunch of times in a row.

But, if someone was hacking accounts in order to run them with bots (for any number of purposes I could only guess at), then hacked accounts might suddenly start acting like bot accounts.

The end result is that your account might be flagged for suspicious or abnormal behavior, even if it’s really you toggling back and forth.

Why Do People Switch Their Instagram Accounts Back and Forth So Much? (2 Things)

Young woman using smart phone and looking for online shopping promotion on social media  during the Christmas season at the mall

That about summarizes why Instagram might give you a notice if you suddenly start changing your account a whole bunch.

But, that’s not the only thing we might mean with the original question.

Another possible meaning is, “Why do people switch their privacy settings so much?”

In that case, we have a whole different discussion on our hands.

By and large with Instagram, you can reduce the motivation for changing an account to or from private and public into two categories:

  • professional reasons, and
  • personal reasons.

There are a ton of specific reasons within those categories, so we’ll explore some of the most obvious to try to paint a clear picture.

#1 Professional Reasons

Young and beautiful Asian woman influencer showing clothes in front of smartphone camera while recording vlog video and live streaming at her shop

There are two pretty obvious professional reasons to change your privacy status on Instagram.

The first is that you might be looking for a new job and have embarrassing photos on the account.

You could painstakingly go through all of your photos to remove anything worrying on Instagram, or you can just suddenly make your account private.

If you do, then your new potential employers won’t be able to see the photos (make sure that your privacy settings are such that only followers can see your photos).

It’s an easy solution.

On the other hand, you might want to take a private account public for professional reasons.

Maybe you’re launching a business or working on a side hustle, and you want to use Instagram for promotional purposes.

In that case, taking the account public makes a lot of sense.

#2 Personal Reasons

Two girlfriends having fun laughing while sitting in a cafe

As for personal reasons, more often than not, they will probably point in the direction of taking a public account private.

Perhaps you have an embarrassing post that you don’t want people to find (although removing the post is probably easier).

It could be that someone is annoying or even harassing you on Instagram, so you need to suddenly make your account private to prevent additional problems.

You might be worried about stalkers, or just your privacy in general.

Any of these motivations are good enough to switch the account and have a little more privacy online.

If I Switch My Instagram Account Back and Forth, Will I Have Problems With My Account?

Young woman sitting with smartphone and cup of coffee in her kitchen

Here’s the last thing we’re going to consider today.

You know that switching from private to public and back a whole bunch could get your account flagged.

That brings us to an important question, will switching cause you problems?

For the most part, no.

Instagram allows you to toggle between these settings on purpose.

They want it to be easy.

The only way you’re going to be flagged is if your behavior somehow seems fishy to Instagram.

If you toggle really frequently, like a dozen or more times a day, then you’ll probably get flagged. 

If you change your mind every few months about whether you want your account public or private, you should be fine.

If you’re making this change for the first time, there’s nothing to worry about.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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