So, you’ve all been asking me, and rather than tell the tale repeatedly here it is in all it’s really rather dull glory.
For those that don’t know, my Instagram was taken down just over a week ago, no warning, no explanation. I’m there feeling like a criminal wondering if I’ve lost 5 years of our French house renovation diary, and the wonderful community that has built around it to the tune of over 8000 people. It was heartbreaking initially, I felt a bit sick. Then pragmatism crept in, and I reminded myself no-one had died, I hadn’t done anything wrong, and in the great scheme of things that this wasn’t a big deal. Like if I said it enough I’d believe it, but at that point I wasn’t convinced.
I googled, and I thought long and hard about what happened at the point the account was locked. Over a period of 24/48 hours a couple of things had happened which were unusual, and the conclusion I’ve drawn is that the combination of the two in a short space of time, possibly triggered Instagram’s algorithm to lock me down.
The first thing, was just a silly mistake on my part. I posted a video to my instagram stories on a sunny morning, dogs and cats chilling out together, nothing unusual there. But. What I’d absentmindedly done, is in the background I was listening to Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction quite loudly on vinyl. A few instagram followers if they were quick, did see it before it was taken down due to copyright infringement. Gah, I thought. You’re an idiot, of course it’s not happy with the music, thought nothing more of it, and went about my day.
Later that day or the next day, I forget which, an app I’ve used for a very long time had run an update which prompted me to re link it with my Instagram account with my log in details. I dutifully did this, and immediately I had a message from Instagram to say my account was disabled due to suspicious activity and it would be reviewed within usually 24 hours. I have never had anything like this happen before. 24 hours came and went, and the message changed to something like, your account has been suspended for violating our community standards. What?!
So, of course the first thing you then do is read Instagram’s community standards (probably for the first time like me) to try to figure out what you did.
The third party app I’d been using was one to help manage followers. Many of you will have them. As you’re capped at following 7500 accounts, if you still want to follow more people, you need to unfollow old accounts, dormant accounts, things you’re no longer interested in to give you the room. I naively followed every man and his dog when I started the account 5 years ago. Korean Pizza shops, New York vintage stores, every bloody wax melt purveyor in town. I would follow back as just good manners. Of course, these Pizza shops and hinchers have long since stopped following me, and I use the app to periodically remove these old accounts to allow me to follow more people that are relevant to me. I have never paid for followers, or tried to artificially inflate my follower count, spammed people with constant direct messages or anything like that. I’m small fry in the great scheme of things. People can follow me or not, it’s entirely up to them.
Sure enough, these apps, however little you use them and what you use them for, are in violation of Instagram’s community standards. If you are using one, I suggest you disable it sharpish because you don’t want this to happen to you. It’s just not worth it for the sake of something that just saves you some time. I think it’s a poor situation that these apps are plentiful, available to download with nothing resembling a disclaimer to say “use at your peril” , they have 10’s of thousands of great reviews. Just don’t do it. Ask yourself if you are happy to lose everything you’ve built.
What I’d also caution people to do is think long and hard about their visual content. It’s not enough to post a photo and credit where you’ve nicked it from. Unless you have express written permission from the creator, you do not have the right to post that photo. If someone was to complain about copyright infringement it would be goodbye account. I don’t mean sharing someone’s post to stories. I mean using someone else’s photo on your grid as part of your content. You see it daily. Throwaway pictures of the Eiffel Tower and plates of macarons. Just don’t do it.
As a user, I certainly don’t want to see photos you personally didn’t take. It’s like changing the cover on a book you’ve put your name on, then just copying and pasting the text and crediting Charles Dickens.
So, let this be a Dickensian cautionary tale. Read the community standards if you haven’t already, abide by them and all should be well.
Instagram is a creative and inspiring place, let’s help keep it that way.
Getting my account back was basically pot luck and much stress. You cannot speak to or contact an actual person. There isn’t really customer support, it’s all automated. There are reports you can file to lodge a grievance, and of course I did this. First I got an automated message saying, this doesn’t appear to be a problem anymore. – It still was. Then I was e-mailed a 5 digit code. I had to supply them with a photo of me, holding up a sheet of paper where I had hand written this code, my e-mail address and my user name for identity verification purposes. I did this. They could have had a kidney at this point, I really didn’t care. No response. I filed another complaint after 48 hours, then another after another 48 hours. Still nothing. I read on line forums and help posts. One suggested taking out an ad so they could see you were serious about your account and would be more likely to unlock it. It’s a thing I said I’d never do, but sure enough I generated a throwaway 5 euro advert and set it to run for 24 hours. I don’t know if this is the thing that helped or not, but before it had finished running it’s 24 hours, my account was unlocked.
You won’t see any more adverts from me.
So I’m back at Rosbifblog on instagram and all is right with the world!