Are you using Instagram’s Restrict feature? I think it’s one of the smartest features out there right now for protecting creator’s spaces. And no matter how big or small your Instagram account is, if you’re making content, you’re a creator. So, this is for you.
Unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to get away from angry, aggressive trolls online. These days, even photos of your dog or what you’re eating for lunch can earn you personal insults and cruel remarks. On many social media platforms, the only recourse you have in the face of rude people online is to block them. Don’t get me wrong — blocking is an incredible feature! But the most determined of trolls will simply create new accounts from which to continue their abuse once they realize you’ve blocked them.
This is why I am so incredibly in love with Instagram’s Restrict feature. When you restrict someone, they are not notified. To them, your page and comment section look just like they always did. But! Once they are restricted, several things happen that they are oblivious to:
1) any comments they leave after being restricted do not show up in your comment section (their comments from before you restricted their account remain visible to everyone).
2) you do not receive a notification of any comments they leave, even if they continue directly replying to you in the comment section.
3) if you go to your comment section and scroll through, you do see a notification that says, “view hidden reply.” So, you have the choice to look at their comments if you wish, but if not, you never know they commented.
3) they continue to see their comments as though they are there, but no one else can see them
4) this happens for every post you make, meaning they can never leave a public comment on your page again.
Because their comments still show up when they look at your page, they have no idea that anything has changed. The conversation in the comment section carries on, often (in my experience) with them interjecting dozens or hundreds of times. As other people’s comments receive Likes and replies, theirs just sit there, ignored. They say “starve a troll” and I think that’s good advice.
I like that I can control when toxic people’s comments come into my awareness. It’s important for my mental health that abusive people don’t have immediate access to me. I would rather not log into my apps and be immediately bombarded with cruel or insensitive comments. Once someone has let me know that the way they engage with me will be toxic, mean, or dangerous, I restrict them. Now, the only access they have to my consciousness is when I choose to let them have it. I like that conversations can unfold on myterms. The fact is, I don’t want to squash every negative conversation in my comment section. Sometimes, through a little dialog, some progress can be made. Using the restrict feature allows me to continue engaging with people only when I want to. Otherwise, their comment just sits, unseen and unacknowledged.
I especially like this feature when it comes to people who follow me. I’ll usually block a troll who doesn’t follow me. It’s clear they’re not my intended audience, and they aren’t invested in my content. They can go and not let the door hit them on the way out. But, sometimes, a person who follows me gets angry or triggered about an opinion I’ve shared, and they feel the need to make their feelings my problem. I don’t necessarily want to block those people from being able to see my page. Chances are, they’re just in their feelings and need some time to cool down. Restricting their account, at least temporarily, gives both of us the opportunity to cool down before things escalate.
Finally, I’m a firm believer that—when it comes to people who are deliberately trolling with cruel or abusive comments—I deserve to have the last word. At least on my own page. People can say that needing to have the last word makes me immature or weak, unable to handle “criticism.” Let them think that. The truth is, I am perfectly fine with criticism. If someone is bringing me criticism in good faith, we can hash that out. Sometimes, we both end up learning something! But if someone is just trolling my page to get some misdirected aggression out on me, I don’t think they deserve to have the final say. This is my page. Trolls have just as much access to posting their opinions online as I do—on their own page. But my page? My safe place? My community I’ve built through years of outreach and engagement? Nah. I get the last word.
If you’re not already using the Restrict feature on Instagram, I highly recommend you start. It’s easy to use. All you have to do is click the person’s username, go to their profile, click the three dots in the top right-hand corner, and click Restrict. That’s it! And if you decide to unrestrict them, you just follow the same steps and select Unrestrict.
Your peace and sanity matter. And, unfortunately, there will always be people who live for destroying other people’s peace. Don’t give those people unrestrained access to your mind. They don’t deserve it.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.