Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story? Here’s What to Do

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 24, 2024

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Listen, it happens to the best of us. You’re having fun scrolling through Instagram, laughing at reels and checking in on your favorite accounts. Maybe you get an itch of curiosity, and you can’t help but look up someone you know but don’t follow. You click on their profile when the unthinkable happens: you press their profile picture and open their Story. You quickly exit out of the screen but it’s too late. The damage is done. You’ve just accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story. Now what?

Take a few deep breaths. Put down your phone, stop the panic spiral. This social media faux pas happens more than you think. You’re not the first person whose thumb has slipped on a Story post and you won’t be the last. That’s why we’ve put together this simple guide on what to do when you accidentally view someone’s Instagram Stories. From solutions to this dilemma to ways to prevent it from happening again in the future, we’ve thought of everything.

A woman smiling while holding a phone in front of her laptop.

What Happens When You View Someone’s Instagram Story

If you’re new to the world of Instagram, you may be wondering what’s so bad about viewing someone’s Story. In a way, you’re right. There’s nothing bad about watching someone’s IG Story.

We do it all the time, usually with accounts we follow. It’s as natural as hitting the heart button on a photo. People even encourage you to interact with their Stories by adding a link or asking questions on their Stories. But if you don’t want someone to know you check their account, that’s where the trouble starts.

Why? Because of what happens when you view someone’s Instagram Story. When you do this, you not only see whatever content they posted on their Story. At the same time, your account joins a “viewed” list. This is a list of people that only the Story poster sees that tracks who gave their Story a peek. Much like Stories, this list only lasts 24 hours from when the Story posted. After that, the list and the video or image disappear.

How Does Someone Know I Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story

From reading that last section, you probably already know the answer, but we’ll walk you through it just in case. How does someone know I accidentally viewed their Story? From checking their Story views. If the user in question clicks on their own Story, they’ll see an icon in the bottom right corner. If they click on it, they’ll be able to see a list of people who watched that slide or clip. No matter how little time you actually spend looking at their Story, you’ll still appear on that list.

That said, there’s always the chance that your mistake could remain secret. Many users don’t comb through their Story views list every time they post. Or, they might forget to check during the 24 hour window. If they don’t manually go in and do this, they’ll never be any the wiser. Instagram doesn’t send a notification when someone’s viewed your Story. So relax, there’s always the chance that you have nothing to worry about after all.

But what if you can’t stop yourself from stressing about this? Or you know that that person religiously checks their “viewed” list. Sometimes, you just can’t risk even the smallest chance that this person will know what you did. For that, we move on to our next section: solutions.

What to Do When You Accidentally View Someone’s Instagram Story

Wondering what to do when you accidentally view someone’s Instagram Story? Well, here’s our honest opinion: accept it and move on. It’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day, it’s not a big deal. Sure, it may feel embarrassing in the moment. Maybe you viewed the Story of someone you “IG stalk” from time to time. Maybe it was a crush, or someone you know of but who doesn’t know you.

None of these scenarios are ideal. But at this point, it’s done. You saw what you saw and you can’t change that. You likely won’t remember this even happened in a few weeks. If you do, just put it in perspective. Will it seem like the end of the world in a few months from now? Or years?

Okay, we can’t all be that zen. But we had to give it a try. If mellowing out and accepting the past isn’t in the cards for you right now, we have alternatives. Here’s what to do when you’ve accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story:

  1. Put your phone on airplane mode.
  2. Block them.
  3. Deactivate your account.

Next, we’ll get into the specifics of each method, why they work and how to do them. Let’s start with the one you need to do the quickest: putting your phone in airplane mode.

Handheld phone showing Instagram loading to represent a person trying to figure out what to do when you accidentally view someone's story.

I Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story: Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode

If you’ve accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story, immediately put your phone in airplane mode. Try to do this as soon as you’ve exited out of the other person’s Story.

The hope is that by disrupting your internet connection, your view won’t register. We suggest using airplane mode because it’s a quick way to do this. By the time you go and unplug your modem or turn off your internet connection, it’ll be too late. Why not just tap the wifi button on your phone to disable your connection? Because if you’ve enabled data use for Instagram, your view will still go through on the app. Airplane mode quickly takes you offline altogether. 

We mention this method first because it’s the most time sensitive one. However, because of this, it’s also the least reliable. You need to do it immediately for the best odds of it working. Even then, your view may still count. It’s also the hardest method to use because you have to keep your phone in airplane mode until the Story expires. Why? If you take your phone off airplane mode while the Story is up, your device will still send the data that indicates you viewed that Story. All your quick thinking will be for nothing.

Understandably, however, you probably don’t want to put yourself in phone jail for 24 hours. So we’ll move on to our next solution.

I Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story: Block Them

If you accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story, avoid having your view counted by blocking that user. Blocking someone on IG sounds extreme, we know. In a way, this is a last resort. After all, if you block them, you can no longer see any of their content. Plus, if you were following them, you’d disappear from their follower list. They might notice this and wonder why you felt the need to give them such a cold shoulder.

Additionally, if you want to be able to follow them again, once you unblock them you’ll have to re-request them. While they didn’t receive a notification when you watched their Story, they’ll get a notification when you hit follow. If they didn’t previously notice you deleted them, this will give you away.

However, blocking them is a sure-fire way to get you expunged from their Story views list. When you block someone, all trace of you disappears from their Instagram. They can’t see your posts, profile, and as part of that, they can’t see your view either. For this to work, you need to keep them blocked for 48 hours. While Stories expire after 24 hours, if a user archives a Story, the story view list lasts for 48 hours.

If this sounds like the solution for you, here’s a step-by-step of how to block someone on IG:

  1. Go to your profile.
  2. Tap the three horizontal lines on the top-right corner.
  3. Select “Settings”.
  4. Click “Privacy”.
  5. Hit “Blocked Accounts”.
  6. Add the account you want to block.

At last you can rest easy and get back to enjoying your IG feed.

I Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story: Deactivate Your Account

Was the last method not extreme enough for you? Then we have one last thing to do when you’ve accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story. Deactivate your account. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you give up IG for good. Just long enough for the Story and the “viewed” list to expire.

When you deactivate your account, it’s like you don’t exist any more on the app. Therefore, you won’t show up on someone’s Story views list. Just be sure to stay deactivated for 48 hours. That way you won’t pop up on the archived version either.

This solution is actually a great way to go undetected viewing someone’s Story without having to block them. When you block someone, they can eventually figure out that they’ve been blocked. But by deactivating your account, you don’t single out anyone.

People deactivate their accounts for many reasons. They might think you just wanted a break from the app. Of course, the one downside of doing this is that you can’t use Instagram for 48 hours. No biggie, right? It’s always good to go through a social media detox, so this might be just what the doctor ordered.

There you have it. Three ways to recover when you’ve accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story. Now that we’ve covered what to do after the fact, let’s get into preventative measures. That way, you won’t have to deal with this issue ever again.

How to Prevent Yourself From Accidentally Viewing Someone’s Instagram Story

It’s great to know what to do after you’ve accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story. But wouldn’t it be better if you avoided this situation once and for all? That’s what we’ve dedicated the last half of this article to. Through our research, we’ve come up with four ways to prevent yourself from this predicament. We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each of these methods, and if they’re worth using. Keep scrolling for more information.

Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story: Avoid This by Turning off Your Internet

We’re sure the title of this section made you do a double take. Perhaps you thought, are you telling me to stay off the internet to avoid accidentally viewing someone’s Instagram Story? Don’t sweat it. We’re not. We are suggesting this as a stealthy way to view a Story. Here’s how it works.

Basically, you open up IG and allow the page with the Story you want to view to load fully. Then, turn off your internet. You can do this by disabling wi-fi on your phone, going into airplane mode, or disconnecting your modem. Then, click on the Story you want to view. This way, you can watch the Story without being connected to the internet.

There’s a catch. After, you have to close the app and not use it for 24 hours to keep your view undetected. This is because this method works on the same principles as some of our earlier suggestions. You’re trying to make it seem like you never saw that story. In order to do that, you have to avoid Instagram for as long as the Story is up.

Be Careful Where You Click

If you’re trying to avoid accidentally viewing someone’s Instagram Story, you need to be careful. Think about how you got into this situation in the first place. You pressed on something you didn’t mean to. So going forward, you want to mind what you’re clicking and tapping.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid leaving your phone laying around with Instagram open. If you leave your phone unattended, someone else might click on a Story you wouldn’t normally view. Or, something could land or rub against your phone, causing a Story to open.

Another thing to keep in mind is clicking on a user’s handle, not their profile picture. If you’re searching an account on IG, always tap on their name. This will take you to the user’s profile. If you instead click on their profile picture while the Story banner is visible, that’s where it all goes wrong.

Making this one small change drastically eliminates the possibility of you accidentally watching someone’s IG Story. We encourage you to be thoughtful, whether you’re aiming to become an influencer or you just love scrolling around.

Handheld phone showing Instagram's login page.

Accidentally Viewed Someone’s Instagram Story: Prevent This With a Third Party App

An alternate way of viewing Stories without detection is by using a third party app. There are apps claiming to have Story viewer tools to help you watch Stories on the sly. Usually they offer this as part of a suite of other IG services. Like scheduling a Story ahead of time or allowing you to easily repost Stories you weren’t tagged in.

Is this a method we recommend you use to prevent accidentally viewing someone’s Instagram Story? No. These apps gain access to your personal account information while lacking proper security. This puts your account and your privacy at risk. On top of that, a lot of these apps are scams or involved with other fraudulent behavior. In our opinion, none of this is worth the risk. Especially when there are much simpler ways to deal with watching an IG Story you shouldn’t have.

Create a “Burner” Account

Last but not least, if you want to continue watching Stories without leaving a trace, create a burner account. The idea is to create a profile for engaging with content that you don’t want traced back to you. This anonymous other account will be your go-to place for all those activities.

The “pros” of doing this? You can still take in all the content that you want without jumping through a bunch of extra hoops. You don’t have to stay logged out of IG for 24 hours after viewing a Story. You don’t have to keep turning off your internet.

The cons? You might forget to switch between accounts and end up accidentally viewing someone’s Instagram Story on your main profile. Then you’re right back where you started. The other con is that the person whose Story you’re viewing might notice this mystery account watching their content. They might block you or even contact you if they’re annoyed by your actions. With any of these methods, we recommend you proceed with caution.

Now that you know what to do if you accidentally viewed someone’s Instagram Story, you can get back to focusing on your own Stories. There are a lot of ways to use Stories to boost your following. Like adding music to your IG Stories or changing your Instagram Stories background color. Need help taking your IG to the next level? At Path Social, we’ve built an in-house platform of influencers and a proprietary AI targeting algorithm over the past decade. That’s how we can reach targeted, engaged, and organic users to boost your following. Start growing and gaining Instagram followers today.