Instagram's new sensitivity setting doesn't actually affect your feed

But turning it on by default — and not even alerting users to the change or properly explaining it — is bad form from Instagram.

Young worried woman using social media on her phone while resting on sofa i the living room.
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Earlier this week, Instagram introduced a new feature allowing users to control how much sensitive content they see during their browsing experience. Instagram specified in its post that “sensitive” content includes “posts that don’t necessarily break our rules, but could potentially be upsetting to some people — such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent.”

The new feature immediately ruffled some feathers across the Instagram community; it automatically defaults to a setting that says it will limit some content in your browsing experience. Why would Instagram turn such a setting on without first receiving user approval?

In response, many Instagram users have been sharing information like the post above to spread the word about the setting. It’s useful, but the sort of thing Instagram should’ve made clear to users itself.

But even these PSAs from users miss an important point, and it’s one Instagram has largely buried, too: The setting only controls content you see on your Explore page. Instagram isn’t limiting any sort of sensitive content from people you follow — only posts you might see from strangers while browsing posts from the wider Instagram community.

How to turn it off — The new feature will really only affect you if you’re partial to browsing Instagram’s Explore feed. If that’s you — or if you generally just don’t want Instagram limiting what you see — turning the new setting off is pretty simple.

First, you’ll want to navigate to your main settings page. Go to your profile and tap the hamburger menu (the three lines) in the upper-right corner.

Then head to Settings > Account > Sensitive Content Control.

Most likely you’ll find Instagram has selected “Limit” for you, which is the default. In order to turn the filter off completely, click “Allow” instead. Alternatively, you can tell Instagram here to “Filter Even More” if you really don’t want to see any sexually suggestive content on your Explore page.

Not the greatest comms plan, IG — Instagram introduces new features all the time without making a fuss about it, but for the most part features don’t really change the Instagram experience unless you want them to. Changing default settings without making it abundantly clear what’s been changed is bad for both user experience and user trust.

Instagram and Facebook have long struggled with balancing an open community with individual users’ tolerance levels for so-called “sensitive” content. Allowing each user to control how much they see on Instagram could be just the solution to this ongoing issue, but the company’s decision to automatically select the “limit” option is a strange one.