Yes, You Can Use Instagram Direct For Sexting (As Long As Your Friends Aren’t Narcs)

Sometimes Snapchat, SMS, email and webcams aren't enough.

Kevin Systrom addresses the unwashed masses. (Photo: Getty)

Kevin Systrom addresses the unwashed masses. (Photo: Getty)

It’s been an hour since this morning’s presser ended, so you’ve probably heard about Instagram Direct and all the wondrous features it is bringing to your smartphone. You can use it for secret picture messages! You can pick and choose the recipients! You can exclude people to make yourself feel important!

But the question on everyone’s minds, or at least the minds of the people who read this blog, or at the very least the minds of the people who write this blog, is this: can you use it for sexting?

Betabeat went all the way to the (very Christmasy!) 11th floor of 28 W. 36th St. this morning to find out. After the 30 minute presentation, we joined the scrum gathered around Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. A reporter from the Telegraph asked if people could use the platform for sending sexy photos.

“Sexy photos?” Mr. Systrom said. “I just like to send pictures of my dog.”

Boooringggg. Instagram has a strict content policy, he continued, but photos aren’t pulled unless someone flags them as inappropriate, meaning lots of risqué stuff still makes it through. Instagram Direct will operate in the same way.

“So you can sext as long as no one reports you?” Betabeat interjected.

“Well, if a tree falls in the woods, can you hear it?” Mr. Systrom responded. We took this as a yes (and as some sort of veiled dick pic joke that we still haven’t decoded).




Don’t get too excited about blasting out pictures of your boobs cloaked in Mr. Systrom’s favorite filter, which is surprisingly mayfair. Instagram Direct photos are built to last. They are not ephemeral, and Instagram has no interest in making them so.

Also, all of the people to whom you send a photo or video can easily make fun of you for it by commenting, together, directly underneath, so that could always dissuade you.

The hope is that people will use Instagram Direct to spark conversations—conversations that live on the app forever and ever and ever. So if you do use Instagram Direct to make your porny dreams come true, keep that in mind.

Instagram also is trying, as always, to class up the joint through the use of filters. You won’t find Snapchat’s crude drawing tools here.

“I think Snapchat has their own market,” Mr. Systrom said diplomatically. “They’re going after it in a unique way.”

Another key difference: You can only send an Instagram Direct photo to 15 people, whereas on Snapchat, you can inundate every single person on your list with that dumb photo of your face with “funny” glasses drawn on. This will help cut down on spam, Mr. Systrom said.

Also, you’ll only receive photos from people you follow—but you also have to manage an inbox of pending photos from everyone else in the world. For most plebes, this won’t be a problem. You can choose to ignore the pending requests and you won’t even see the photos. But if you’re well known, we can see this getting annoying.


Through the whole half hour presentation, Mr. Systrom made nary a mention of Instagram Video. We asked him about it afterward.

Rude tbh (Screengrab:

Rude tbh (Screengrab:

“Video is included,” he said, but it sounded like an afterthought. We asked if he thought Instagram Video had been successful thus far.

“It’s taken off in a different way” than what was expected, he said. “It’s more about consumption than production.”

Celebrities, brands and networks have success with Instagram Video, he said. That’s not to say typical users aren’t making videos, but if our anecdotal evidence is any indication, only their moms are enjoying them.


• This will not cannibalize Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, Mr. Systrom said a ton of times because people kept asking about it. “This is a new use case,” he said. “We wanted to attack an opportunity that hasn’t been covered.”

• You can’t forward Instagram Direct messages, so again, happy sexting.

• Insta is based in Silicon Valley, but they held this presser in NYC as a reminder that the company “is global.”

• Mr. Systrom repeatedly turned down opportunities to talk monetization, saying they’d rather take the process slowly. But anyone you follow can send you a direct message, so a company with a ton of interns willing to blast out ads to 15 people at a time could always pop up in your inbox.

• Mark Zuckerberg was one of the earliest beta users of Instagram Direct, and he was involved in early stages of product development.

• This is not a marketing tool to lure young people, Mr. Systrom insisted when asked if this was a ploy to attract Facebook hating teens back to one of the social network’s platforms. That’s a shame, because it sounds like a great new avenue for cyber bullying.

• Mr. Systrom also showed this incredibly moving and nostalgic promo spot that might cause you to shed a single tear while wondering why nobody’s ever invited you on a cross country road trip.

Yes, You Can Use Instagram Direct For Sexting (As Long As Your Friends Aren’t Narcs)