File picture: Pexels
File picture: Pexels

Protect your profile with these social media privacy settings

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published May 12, 2020

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Social media is a place to share, connect and build relationships. However, it is also the gateway to creating a digital footprint for yourself.

When it comes to social media most of us have had accounts since we were teenagers. From the good, to the bad and the embarrassing, it’s all online for anyone to see… unless you have the right privacy settings activated.

From Facebook to Twitter, here’s how to make sure you are making best use of all the privacy settings available on social media.


Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Selecting who can see your posts

With a list of pliable privacy settings that can be molded to suit your specific needs, Facebook allows users to select who can see their posts using the “audience selector”. This tab can be found in most places where you share content on the website/app, such as posts, photos and for certain information on your profile. The drop down menu has a variety of options including “Public”, “Friends” and “Friends except”, the latter allows you to hand pick who you would like to keep your post hidden from. 

However, Facebook warns on their Help Centre that: “Some things you share on Facebook will always be public. For example, when you post or comment in a public group, your post or comment will be public and can be seen by anyone.”

Limiting who can see your past posts

Unfortunately Facebook came around the same time when some of us were getting our braces off and entering high school. And, with that phase of life came a lot of cringe-worthy (and sometimes inappropriate) content that was posted without a second thought. Now that we’re at the age of applying for universities, bursaries, jobs or are looking to win over new friends, having that sort of a digital footprint might not be such a good idea. 

If you'd like to limit who can see all of your past posts at once, you can do so in your account settings. This will change all your past posts to be visible to only certain people. To do so, on the Classic version of Facebook, select Settings > Privacy. Next to “Limit the audience for posts you've shared with friends of friends or Public?”, click “Limit Past Posts” to confirm the action.

Managing your tags

You can try as much as you like to keep a pristine image on Facebook, but if someone decides to tag you in an unflattering or embarrassing picture without your consent, the post will be shared onto your profile for all your friends to see. And by the time you report the image or click untag, the damage will already be done.

With the Timeline Review feature on Facebook you can preview what you’ve been tagged in by friends before it gets posted to your timeline. Go to Settings > Timeline and tagging > Review posts you're tagged in before the post appears on your timeline? > Edit. From here you will be able to choose “Enable” to select this feature for your tags. 


Picture: Wikimedia Commons

IG is one of the most popular photo sharing sites in the world. It’s evolved over the years into something a little more sophisticated and is known to be the destination for everyone’s best pictures. 

Selecting who can see your posts

By default, all Instagram accounts are set to public, making all posts visible to anyone who searches your profile. To only allow accepted followers to see your page, switch to the “Private” mode under Settings > Account privacy. Then tap “Private account”. 

Instagram’s Help Page warns users to be mindful of sharing posts to other social media platforms as they may be visible to the public depending on your privacy settings for those networks. “For example, a post you share to Twitter that was set to private on Instagram may be visible to the people who can see your Twitter posts,” it read.

Who can comment and like posts

On “Public” anyone is free to comment or like your posts. If you want to prevent specific people from liking or commenting on your posts, you can block them. If your account is private, approved followers will be able to like or comment on your posts.

Filtering out comments 

Comments deemed inappropriate, offensive or to be bullying are automatically filtered out from under your shared content by Instagram due to a default setting. 

However, if you wish to turn on a keyword filter to hide specific comments that contain words, phrases, numbers or emojis that you'd like to avoid, you can. To activate this, go to Settings > Privacy > Comments. Tap next to Manual Filter to turn it on and proceed to enter any phrases or words you’d like to avoid appearing under your content. 

Hiding your story

Instagram issued a feature that allows users to hide their stories from specific people. To enable, visit the person who you want to hide your stories from’s Instagram page. Click the three dots to the top right side of the page, a menu of options will open up, one of which will read “Hide Your Story”. Select this to remove them as a story viewer on your page, this action can always be reversed by following the same steps. 

Approving tags

To pre-approve pictures that show up under your tagged photos section of the app, open up the settings menu, select Tags > Manually approve tags and you're sorted.


Picture: Needpix.

Ah, Twitter. The website for those with quick wit and sharp tongues and the mother from whence all our favourite memes are spawned. Naturally, it would make sense to improve your privacy settings - you never know who could be lurking.

Protecting your tweets

When you open a Twitter account, you can choose to keep your Tweets public or protect them. To enable this function, go to Privacy and safety settings. In the Tweet privacy section, select the box next to Protect my Tweets. Click the Save button at the bottom of the page to finalise. 

Avoid popping up on search engines

Twitter reminds users on their Help page to be aware that the words you write in your Twitter profile or public Tweets may be bookmarked by Google and other search engines, and cause your profile or Tweets to come up in a search for those keywords.

Depending on the degree to which this concerns you, Twitter suggests trying the following:


Change your name as it appears in your profile


Change your username


Protect your tweets

Approve your tags

On Twitter, you can approve what photos you are tagged in— click on Privacy and safety followed by Photo tagging from the settings in the app.

Unfriending, unfollowing and blocking

Whether it's Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, occasionally hiding a post or two just doesn’t cut it and you’d rather remove someone from your friend list or followers permanently. This is sometimes the best and easiest way to ensure your profile is kept private from certain individuals and their comments or posts. 


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