Tag, You’re it – what does it mean to be “Tagged” on Facebook and other sites?

If you’re new to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you may have heard of “tagging” but are not really sure what it means.  Simply put, tagging identifies someone else in a post, photo or status update that you share.  A tag may also notify that person that you have mentioned them or referred to them in a post or a photo, and provide a link back to their profile.

You can tag someone in a photo that you share to identify them in the photo.

You can tag someone in a status update to make sure that they see that post.

Tagging with the “@” symbol

On some social media sites you might see names preceded by the “@” symbol.  The “@” symbol signifies that someone is tagged.

For example if you want to get someone’s attention on Instagram you can tag them in a comment by entering their username preceded by “@” - such as “Hey @JeanBeanNH what do you think of this?“  The person with the username “JeanBeanNH” will know that you have mentioned her on your Instagram post.

You can also tag someone in a photo with the tag feature in Instagram.

Twitter also uses the “@” symbol.    On Twitter, you can type “@” before someone’s username and that is pretty much the same thing as tagging someone on Facebook.  You’ll see it when replying to or mentioning another Twitter user in a tweet.

Here’s an example where Jimmy Fallon (or likely one of his staff members) has tagged/mentioned Shaun White and Sara Bareilles.

Jimmy Fallon's tweet with tags

While Denzel Washington is mentioned in the post, he is not tagged so there is no link back to his Twitter feed.  Perhaps he doesn’t have a Twitter account? Playing it old school!

Learn about Twitter privacy for mentions, replies and tags – https://support.twitter.com/articles/14023-what-are-replies-and-mentions

Facebook Tagging and Privacy

On Facebook, there are some Privacy settings you can set to limit who can see posts and photos where you are tagged.

See, if your Facebook friend posts a photo, and you are in that photo, then usually only her friends (or whichever audience she chooses) will see the photo.  But, if she TAGS you in the photo, then potentially YOUR friends will see it too.

But you can limit the visibility of photos and posts that you are tagged in.  Just take a look at the Privacy settings page  and click on “Timeline and Tagging”.

For “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?” you want that to say “Yes”.  With this setting enabled, you will be notified when you are tagged and can choose whether an individual tag will show up on your Timeline.  (For example you can preview a photo to make sure you look good before all your friends see it!)

Next take a look at the setting “Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your timeline?” Your choices here are the standard audience settings such as Everyone, Friends, Friends or Friends, Custom or Only Me.  This is the most private option, as your friends will not see posts that you are tagged in (assuming you did not tag yourself; we’re talking about posts by other people here).  You can also choose a custom audience as I’ve done in the example below.

These are my suggested settings for Timeline and Tagging for those who want to take some control over tags on Facebook.

Facebook Options for Timeline and Tagging

Click for a larger view

More about tagging from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/124970597582337

How to remove a tag of yourself from a Facebook photo

So what if your friend did indeed post an unflattering photo of you? You can also “untag” yourself from a photo on Facebook.

1. Click Options at the bottom of the photo.

2. Check to untag yourself:

Untag a photo

3. Click Remove tag, and voilà, you are no longer tagged in the photo! The photo remains on Facebook but the tag is gone.  This photo will no longer show up on your timeline under the heading “Photos of You”.

Confirmation of removal of a Facebook tag


Instagram tagging and privacy

If you are tagged on Instagram, either in a photo or comment, who can see the tag and the photos/comments that goes along with it?

Anyone who can see the photo can see who is tagged.  So if your child is tagged in a photo by a friend, and that friend’s photos are Public, anyone who happens upon that photo will see who is tagged.  Keep this in mind if your child has a lot of friends who have public profiles. They can click on the tag to view your child’s profile.  If your child’s profile is private, all they will see is their name, username and bio, but if your child’s profile is public, they will see all your child’s photos as well.   Learn how to make an Instagram profile private.

Luckily, there is some level of control in terms of who can see your tags on Instagram.  You can have tags automatically appear on your profile, or you can manually approve them.  Choose manually approve Instagram tags so you can preview before they show up on your profile.  If you don’t like the photo, don’t approve the tag! (More on this from Instagram: http://help.instagram.com/186952328121982/).


Do you use tagging on social media? Do your kids? Will you review your tag settings now? Let me know in the comments!

About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.