Instagram Has A List Of Your "Interests" To Target Ads — Here's How To Change Them

BDG Media, Inc.

There's almost no area of our lives that hasn't been taken over by ads — and Instagram is no exception. In between your friends' photos of dinners that they're having without you and sponsored posts from celebrities, there's virtually no escape. The ads on Instagram can be tempting or annoying, depending on how they market to you, but you can actually take steps to change your ads on Instagram if you don't like what you see.

Now, to be clear, you can't get rid of Instagram ads. But when you understand why Instagram shows you what they show you, you can make a shift and take more control over how your data and history are used to target you. "We want to show you ads from businesses that are interesting and relevant to you, and to do that, we use information about what you do on Instagram and Facebook (our parent company) and on third-party sites and apps you use," Instagram's FAQ page explains. "For example, you might see ads based on the people you follow and things you like on Instagram, your information and interests on Facebook (if you have a Facebook account), and the websites and apps you visit." That sounds straightforward but, as I embarked on this journey to change my Instagram ads, I found the reality is much more complicated — and learned some harrowing things about what Instagram thinks I'm interested in.

If you want to change what to see, first it helps to figure out what is actually being sent your way. Here's how you do it.


Learn About Your Instagram Ads

OK, firstly you can find out what kind of ads Instagram is showing you. Head over to Instagram’s Access Tool website and go down to the “Privacy and Security” tab. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll see the “Ads” heading. Select “Ad Interests" and be prepared to see a whole new world filled with terrifying information about yourself.

Learning about yourself can be kind of a wild ride. Firstly — what the heck, Instagram? Some of my ads made total sense — I'm vegan, I do stand up, I like... friendship? But others were totally confounding. I've never been to Costa Rica, never watched the Primetime Emmys, and have no idea what a Pura Vida Bracelet is. Instagram ads are a confusing place.


Change Ads Manually

Once you know what's being targeted to you, you can take matters into your own hands. (To be honest, you could skip right to this step, but it's weirdly satisfying knowing what dirt Instagram has on you.)

The first way to do this is just to address individual ads that you don't like. When one comes up, click on the familiar three dots in the upper right hand corner of the post and choose to hide it. This isn't the most effective way to do it, because it's easier to make big changes in your Facebook settings (more on that later), but this does let you target ads on a case-by-case basis.


Change Your Ad Settings On Facebook

Although you can deal with each ad individually on Instagram, you have more control of your data if you make changes on Facebook. Go to your Facebook Ad Preferences and then scroll down to Ad Settings. Here you have the option to deny permissions to your data being used by third-party sites and Facebook Company Products, if you so choose. If you change the first setting and no longer allow ads based on data from partners, your ads will be based on information that you've shared on Facebook or its other companies and partners (like Whatsapp and Instagram), but not from random third parties.

If you change the setting on your second option and deny permissions to the Facebook brand more generally, then you'll still see ads but they may be more random. "You'll still see ads, but they won't be as relevant to you," the page explains. "You may still see ads for other reasons." These reasons included your age, gender, or location, the content in the app or website you're using, or other activity.

Granted, you can't get rid of Instagram ads completely — or change how many you see — but you can take more control of how your data is used. If you're someone who wants likes to minimize your data's exposure or doesn't like targeted ads, making changes in Facebook is probably the easiest way forward. Then you just have to worry about the random ads they throw at people in your age group — which is probably a harrowing look at your own mortality. But it's more private!