Let me paint you a picture: it’s Easter weekend. I’m lazing in the sun, phone in one hand, a cold drink in the other. Scrolling through Instagram and generally having a grand time. Until: an alert pops up. Asking me to verify my phone number for the two-factor authentication that I already configured months ago on my account. Thinking nothing of it, I verify. Instagram sends me a code and I enter it into the app. All said and done, I leave the app and come back an hour later only to discover that over half of my content is gone. Without a trace. From 340-something photos to 72, as though a purge has happened, decimating my account while I was stuffing my face elsewhere none-the-wiser.
Between the slight hyperventilating and the changing of passwords to ensure I wasn’t hacked, I start scrambling to figure out what could be the cause. The only apps that have permission to access my account outside of myself are Planoly (my forever faithful Instagram scheduler) and IFTTT, the re-posting app that shares my new posts to Twitter and Pinterest. In a knee-jerk reaction, I disable all permissions and stare into space trying to figure out how get my content back. If it was only personal photos that went, that would be fine (well, not fine. But better). As a content creator however, I quite often work with brands, and a LOT of those images were dragged into this mess too.
If you’ve worked with brands before, you’ll know that once you commit to a collaboration, you agree that it will live on your account for at least a certain time period. Whether that’s 30 days, 60 days or forever more. Which meant by my account seemingly half-disappearing, and with me having no idea how to retrieve my content, I was essentially violating the agreement I had made with multiple brands in the past. Well, hello, all-encompassing stress.
I want to preface this story by saying that none of my content violated any of Instagram’s terms of service. I’ve always been stringent in making sure that I complied, and all of my ‘ad’s were therefore marked. I’ve never shown nudity, or shared hate-speech, or anything of that sort whatsoever. All I had done was enable two-factor authentification and verified my phone number.
So, what does a rational human do when faced with a dilemma they have no idea how to fix? I took to Google. Which redirected me to Reddit, and straight into a thread of multiple accounts in the same boat as me. (This thread, and this one too, in particular). These people had been affected any time from 8 months, to 6, 3 and even last week. All baffled and begging each other for advice. The general consensus was that reporting the activity to Instagram did next-to-nothing, and although you could deactivate your account for 12 – 24 hours (read: NOT delete!), that only had a slight chance of bringing your photos back afterwards.
Instead, it seemed the best way to get Instagram back on your side was simply to wait. Anywhere from 48 to 72 hours was how long it took for people to find their accounts return to normal. Though all of them reported being shadowbanned afterwards, with their content refusing to show up in any hashtags for up to 12 days later. I will admit that I’ve rested on my laurels of using the same set of hashtags for a long time (which I talk about in my best apps for Instagram post). Which may very well have been my problem. But – like when you’re sick and you curse yourself for taking every day you actually felt fine for granted – I was cursing myself for not differentiating my hashtags for every post in the past.
So, we waited. The entire time, all I could think about was how important it is to diversify your income streams. This entire incident was a real awakening of the danger of putting all your eggs in one basket. In a second, Instagram wiped my account clean. Every photo, every interaction and every collaboration, gone. With nobody to reach out to, and deaf ears for my complaints to fall upon. If Instagram was my livelihood, my sole income, I can’t even imagine how I would have been feeling. My work gone in an instant with no explanation. It’s actually pretty terrifying. In fact, I even silently vowed to myself never to rely on another social media as my strongest form of income, it’s not worth the risk.
This is where having your own blog – email list – or network that doesn’t rest in the hands of somebody else, is so important. Any social network could be gone tomorrow, quite literally. And to put it bluntly, our accounts on those sites are simply on borrowed space and time.
While I was waiting for Instagram to reinstate my images – I decided to go through the 72 that my account had left and remove the hashtags. If this had happened because of my laziness with hashtags, I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again. And by removing the repeated hashtags that I have used in the past, I thought it might pave the way for a better etiquette with them in the future.
In truth, I don’t think I’ll ever know what caused this glitch to happen on my account. There’s a good chance it’s linked to hashtag use – like shadowbanning – but why did it only happen after I verified my phone number? I had posted a new photo approximately half an hour before, but there was no black and white sign telling me what I had done wrong. If I had done anything wrong, even. Which makes my use of the app even more cautious for the future.
Have you ever had a glitch hit your Instagram account?
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