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What is the Gear Icon on Instagram?

The gear icon in Instagram is the settings menu icon. It’s the gateway to all the settings you could need to use the app. It’s a universal icon for settings and works the same in Instagram as it does anywhere else. This tutorial will walk you through those settings and will point out some of those you might want to take a close look at when you first begin using the app.

The gear icon we will be exploring here is not the one you see in Instagram Stories. The one we are discussing is the general menu icon found within the profile window.

Instagram settings menu

The gear icon leads to the Instagram settings menu and may be hidden within the three line menu icon on your phone. It is accessible from your profile.

  1. Open Instagram and select your profile icon in the bottom right of the screen.
  2. Select the three line menu icon in the top right.
  3. Select the gear icon in the bottom of the right slider screen that appears.

This takes you to the Instagram settings menu. You should see a list like this:

Some of these are going to be self-explanatory while others require exploration.

Follow and invite friends

Follow and invite friends is self-explanatory. Select it and you can follow or invite contacts who already use Instagram. You can also invite friends to use it if they don’t already.


Notifications controls how and when the app can alert you to things. You can control both Push and email and SMS notifications. This is definitely a setting you want to explore to make sure the app doesn’t bother you unnecessarily.


Privacy is the single menu item you want to spend the most time getting to know. It is where you set up all the privacy settings in Instagram and where you want to do most of your customizing.


Security is also somewhere to get to know. Here you can set up two-factor authentication, change your password, save your login, access your stored data, download your data and clear your search history.


Ads just shows you what ads you have interacted with and see how Instagram decides what ads to show you.


Payments allows you to set up a payment method for the app and set up your contact information and security PIN.


The Account setting is where you go to manage your activity, username, friends list, contacts, verification, likes and account related data.


Help takes you to Instagram’s help center where you can report a problem, look at FAQs and find information on setting up the app and managing your account.


About is where all the small print hides. The data policy, terms of use and software libraries are in there.

Instagram privacy and security settings

The two menus you would want to spend the most time in initially will be Privacy and Security. Both have a huge influence over your Instagram use and control who gets to see what you do and how secure your account is. Both are as important as each other.

Privacy settings

There is no one-size fits all in terms of privacy. You have to balance how you’re going to use Instagram with how private you want to be. It is a social network after all and there is little point using it if you’re going to hide yourself away from the world. At the same time, you don’t want to be oversharing information with the world.

Look at your Account Privacy setting and set it to Private to stop people interacting with you or leave as is for maximum reach. Private just means that people who you don’t follow cannot contact or add you. Existing followers are unaffected.

Also check Activity Status if you don’t want people to see when you were last on Instagram. Check Location Access if you don’t want Instagram to post your location when using the app.

The rest you can explore as you need.

Security settings

Security settings in Instagram is a little more straightforward. Here it’s all about the practical. Set up two-factor authentication immediately. This adds another layer of security to your account and will require any login to also enter a code sent via SMS. It’s a valuable upgrade to your account and prevents the majority of hacking attempts.

The rest is about data management. You can see the data Instagram has on you and download a copy. You can also change your password should you need to and save your login to your phone or require a fresh login each time you use the app.

As long as you already use a secure password, two-factor authentication is your only priority in this section.