top of page

Instagram 101: Understanding the Basics

Three older women looking at a phone screen.

One of the most popular social networking sites on the market today is Instagram. It is a free application (app for short) designed to keep family and friends connected through pictures and videos. Released in late 2010, Instagram has roughly 2 billion monthly users. Not only can you post your own content, you can access recommended content, funny videos and even shop. We will go deeper into the perks of using Instagram within this article.

A man holding a phone with the log-in screen open on Instagram.

Starting on Instagram…

In order to sign-up to use Instagram and all its features you must have an accessible email account or phone number. Tip: Email may be easier to use in case you lose your phone or change your number in the future.

The signing-up process

  1. Download the instagram application on your App Store (iPhone users) or on the Google Play Store (Android users)

  2. Once the app has been installed on your phone, click its logo to open it.

  3. Click “Create a New Account''. Enter in your email or phone number that you can easily access.

  4. Enter the special code. A special code will be sent to your email or phone number that you must enter in order to verify that it is you.

  5. Next, you will be able to choose a password. Decide on one that will be hard for others to figure out and not one you can find in a dictionary. Write it down in a safe place if you must.

  6. Enter your date of birth. Don’t worry, no one can see this on your profile!

  7. Add your name. You can keep it simple and use only your first name.

  8. Decide on a distinctive username. This is how family and friends can easily find you in order to follow you on the app.

  9. Next, Instagram will ask you to read the Terms and Policies which you must tap “I agree” to activate your Instagram account.

  10. Finally, in the last step you have the option to upload a nice profile picture from your camera roll or take a live picture. Otherwise, you can tap “Skip”.


The different pages on the app…

Once the app is opened, there will be a bar on the bottom of the screen displaying 5 icons: a house, a magnifying glass, a clapperboard with a play button inside, a shopping bag and your profile picture. These are the main buttons that will lead you to the essential parts of the app.

The Instagram footer.

Home (House Icon)

This is the page of which you will most likely start on when you freshly open the app. You will have access to:

Your Feed – The most recent content that has been shared by the people you follow will be accessible via the home page, also known as your “feed”. This can come in picture or video form. “Suggested Posts” or “Sponsored Ads” will show up in your feed as well. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn this feature off but it does seem instagram is slowly introducing a “snooze” feature in different regions.

Instagram Stories – At the top of the page, you can access the stories of the accounts you follow, if there are any. Stories are temporary posts that only last a duration of 24 hours. These can come in the form of pictures or videos with filters, music, links, location tags, polls, mentions + more. The people you follow who have available stories will have their distinctive profile picture in circular form with a colorful ring around the outside. The vibrant ring signifies you haven’t seen their story yet. In order to post to your story, click your icon on the far left of the story section, where there will be a small plus sign in a blue circle (this icon won’t be there if you have already posted to your story within the last 24 hours). There you can scroll down your camera roll and choose what you would like to share. Learn more here about stories: here!

Tip: Each story lasts at most 10 seconds long. If you would like to view it longer, touch and hold your finger on the screen to pause the story and prevent it from changing. Release your finger to continue. Plus, you may tap on the left of your screen to review a previous story or right of your screen to skip the current story.

Post – At the top right of your home page, you can see an icon of a plus sign in a box. Tap this icon if you would like to share your very own content to your profile. This posting technique is semi-permanent and accessible at any time on your profile until you decide to delete it. This content will be shared on the feed of your followers (the people who have followed you).

Notifications – To the right of the post icon is a small heart icon which is where you can access all your notifications. The likes, comments, follows will appear here in chronological order. If you have your profile on private mode, you will also have a section on the top of your notification page for people requesting to follow you which require your approval.

Messages – The icon on the right of the notification icon is a small chat bubble with a lightning rod in it. This is for all your private messages between you and your followers or even complete strangers. Learn more about messages: here!

Search (Magnifying glass Icon)

This is the page which will have suggested posts, all of which are only recommended to you and dictated by your previous interactions with similar posts. You do not follow any of these accounts. At the top of the search page, you will find a search bar. Here is where you can type in people’s full names which will give you a broad range of accounts and you will have a harder time searching for who you want to find. When you type in the username this process will help narrow the search down completely. Usernames can only be utilized by one user at a time. Therefore, your username is unique to you and will direct people to your profile. You can also search hashtags, places and audios. After you complete a search, you will have a “recent search” bar available for future references.

Reels (Clapperboard Icon)

This is a page that is purely for entertainment purposes. Instagram gathers some data and information involving previous posts you have interacted with and will accumulate videos, known as reels on instagram, that you may be interested in watching. These are reels from people you have not yet followed. Learn more: here!

Shop (Shopping Bag Icon)

This is a page for online shopping via the Instagram app. Just like many of the other features offered on the app, Instagram collects previous information about the posts you have interacted with, people you follow, etc. and show you items you may be interested in purchasing. Plus, you are able to search items via the shop's designated search bar. Learn more about the Instagram shop: here!

Profile (Your Icon)

Finally, this is your own page. This is where you can access your own profile and posts, delete posts, change your bio, create stories, make a story highlight and manage your settings plus much more. Learn more about your profile: here!

Interaction Features...

Likes – If you find a post you enjoy and you want to signal to the user you like it then double tap the picture or video or simply tap the heart icon. In regards to a story that you want to like, simply tap the heart in the bottom right corner.

Comments – If you would like to show verbal appreciation or express an opinion on content you have come across, you can simply tap the chat bubble icon under the photo or on the left side of the reel to leave your comment.

Share – Found an informative or funny post? Tap the paper airplane icon and send the content privately to one(or multiple) of your friends or family members.

Messages – You can interact with your friends and family privately by sending them a direct message that they can only access.

Important information to know…

Like & Comments – Both likes and comments can be easily seen by other instagram users, so be cautious of what you put out there for others to see!

Posts – Just like many other social networking sites, the information provided from user’s accounts may not be accurate. It is important that you cross-check information if you are interested in obtaining factual information.

This is only scraping the tip of the iceberg of what Instagram has to offer for its users. If you are interested in going in-depth, check out local senior centers for programs that will teach you more about Instagram and how to use the app. Coming up next is Facebook 101: Understanding the Basics. Stay tuned to find out what Facebook has to offer in the coming weeks.


If you enjoyed this article, explore many more here! Or, head on over to our recipes page for easy-to-make healthy recipes: here!

39 views0 comments


bottom of page