Business Technology

Thursday 24 January 2019

Embarrassing Instagram update broadcasts when you have been online

Zayn Malik and girlfriend Gigi Hadid. Picture: Instagram
Zayn Malik and girlfriend Gigi Hadid. Picture: Instagram

Margi Murphy

Instagram has quietly added a new feature that tells followers when you last checked the app that is switched on by default.

The new "Activity Status" has been appearing on both Android and iOS smartphones since the end of last year and is expected to be working on all smartphones soon.

Fortunately, it only reveals whether users have opened the app to people who have exchange direct messages.  In a similar way to WhatsApp, usernames now appear in a friend's inbox with a status like "active now" or "active four hours ago," for example.  However, while a status indicator on a chat app is one thing, a similar feature on a social network reveals how often users are checking feeds and stories.

The update has been met with negative reaction on social media, with many sharing tips on how to disable it. One user dubbed it a "stalkers paradise".

Matt Cagle, Digital rights attorney at the ACLU of Northern California,  added: "Instagram now tells your friends when you were last on Instagram, which is embarrassing because you're always on Instagram."

For those who wish to remain lurking in the shadows, scrolling through streams of photos incognito, there is a way to switch the status off.

Tap on your profile page and click on the settings icon or triple dot icon on the top right-hand side. There you should find settings, with a toggle for "Show Activity Status". Once this is turned off you will not be able to see when friends have last opened the app.

The app, which has more than 700 million users, was ranked the worst social network for young people's mental health by the Royal Society for Public Health in a report.

The #StatusofMind survey of 1,479 youngsters aged 14 to 24, found the photo-sharing app had a negative impact on young people's body image and sleep.

But it also found Instagram had a positive effect on self-expression and self-identity. Recommendations included introducing pop-ups on sites such as Twitter and Facebook warning users about heavy usage.

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