Ahh, of course. Another story of a privileged millennial girl with an iPhone, who probably spends too much time with her phone glued to her hand, and not enough time pondering the real issues of the world. (If you’re not interested, you can stop reading now and focus your attention on the ceasefire in Syria or the situation with the Great Barrier Reef. You know, important stuff.)
Here I was, mindlessly scrolling through my feed, when suddenly, Instagram logged me out of my account. No biggie, it’s happened before. I simply attempted to log in again, but then I got this message:
“Your account has been disabled for violating our terms. If you think that this was a mistake, let us know.”
I froze. That cold-sweat-dread-y feeling swept over me.
I asked a friend to check out my page, and she confirmed my fear: “Yeah, it’s gone. It says ‘User not found.’”
Questions raced through my mind. Had my account been deleted? Were all the pictures lost? Did I lose all my followers? Would I have to start again from scratch? And of course, the main question: What did I do wrong?
I’m by no means insta-famous. I have a following of 3000, which is quite meager. I started 2017 off with roughly 300 followers, and actually began “trying” this year. I posted more high-quality pictures. I used niche hashtags. And I even went as far as to plan my Instagram feed according to a color palette.
But during this, I also employed some less-than-ethical techniques: extensive hashtagging, following and then unfollowing, copying and pasting emojis as comments, liking things left and right indiscriminately.
Did one of these behaviors put me on Instagram’s ban list, I wondered? Did it think I was a bot?
Back to the dilemma: I quickly hit the “Let us know” button to appeal, and it led me to a very unhelpful help section. (Seriously, Instagram, get yourself a customer service team.) When I tried to fill in the form to appeal, a glitch in the “country” field prevented me from submitting it. After I managed to figure it out, I got an email from Instagram asking me to take a picture of myself with a handwritten code and my username.
Then the waiting game began.
Hours later, and still having not heard back, I messaged some friends I knew at Facebook to see if they could help. They made some vague promises to check it out.
Desperate, I turned to Twitter.
(And I don’t know how to Twitter, so I was very desperate.)
I discovered that this was happening to multiple people. Hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts were getting the same message as me. There was one blogger who had her account of over 600,000 followers disabled. Several business pages had also faced the same problem and were losing business because of it.
Are you guys seriously ignoring the fact that accounts are being deleted randomly. At least release some sort of statement.
— ♥可愛い♥ (@miinssi) July 6, 2017
That made me stop and think.
Was I being too self-centered? Vain, even? My Instagram wasn’t tied to my work or income. I wasn’t losing any money. In fact, I had just gotten my very first sponsorship from a local tea place, and they were only paying me in merchandise / tea. Other people depended on their social followings. They used their sponsorships to pay their mortgage, their bills, their employees etc. Did I have less of a right to be upset?
Hours passed. I noticed more and more tweets coming in, flooding the official @Instagram Twitter page. It seemed like a zillion accounts were facing the issue. However, it was a good 12 hours before Instagram released an official statement (which has since been deleted.) Only a handful of news websites covered the glitch.
We don't care, give us our accounts back. We worked too hard to have it deleted for no reason.
— dani/ella (@SuicidalFelix) July 6, 2017
Even though it seemed like so many account were affected, in reality, it was a small blip.
And ultimately, I realized – no one would notice if I was disappeared on Instagram.
Instagram has 700 MILLION monthly users. Let’s put that in perspective – that’s DOUBLE the population of the U.S. I’m just a drop in the very vast sea. A tiny collection of pixels that someone would more likely scroll past, than linger.
No one was really aware that I existed.
And what kind of existence was I cultivating on Instagram, anyways? That I was always put-together, happy? There were days where I would post a stylish #OOTD, when in reality I was in bed in sweatpants with my hair unbrushed and my face unmade. I was playing into the social construct of perfection on social media, and if I’m honest, my self-esteem was tied to it too.
When it doubt, put a cap on it. . 📷@melindaximen . . . #moodygram #streetlook #streetstyle #streetstyleluxe #fashionforward #vscofashion #fashionstatement #casualchic #ootd #fashiondiaries #sfblogger #fashiongram #instablogger #lookbook #styleblogger #stylegram #fblogger #styleinspo #aboutalook #wiw #currentlywearing #instastyle #ootdshare #stylelife #fashionaddict #fashiondaily #whatimwearing #stylefile #personalstyle #pursuitofportraits
Likes were my cocaine. I felt a rush of validation whenever a photo got a stream of those little hearts. People commented, complimenting my outfit, my makeup, my hair, and I loved it. Of course, crowd-sourcing your self-esteem is a double edged sword – whenever a photo didn’t get many likes, or got a less-than-enthusiastic comment, I doubted myself a little bit.
16 hours after the initial “disabled” notification, my account was quietly restored. All my pictures and followers and comments remained.
So maybe Instagram disabled my account at a good time. I feel like I learned a little more about myself. I will remain a very active user (maybe too active by some people’s standards) but with a little more consciousness.
After all, according to their user base, I barely exist.