Friday, September 8, 2017

when instagram disabled my account

Last Saturday morning I was lying in bed, loving the fact that I didn't have to be anywhere anytime soon, sipping my coffee and reading the last couple of pages of my book. If I listened carefully I could hear the sounds of the girls slowly waking up, Bren and a friend using power tools in the shed and the birds calling to each other through the forest. I was warm and content in my little bubble as I reached for my phone to have a look at what the rest of the world was up to.

I started with the comments that had come through in response to my blog posted the day before. Thoughts on sock knitting, bowl carving, dealing with difficult shop keepers... I love the way your comments keep the conversation going. Like my blog is not a static piece of writing but an ongoing collaboration, a conversation.

And then I read a few asking me about my Instagram account. Where was it? Had I decided to have a break from social media? Had I deleted it?

Of course I clicked over straight away sure that my photos would be right where I had left them the day before when I'd posted a picture of a little tea party we'd shared in Bren's shed amongst the wood shavings and tools.

But, instead of finding my photo stream or my profile, there was a log-in page asking for my details. Ahhhh that's easy enough, I thought to myself while filling in my user name and email address, I've been logged out, easily fixed. But instead of resuming normal activity, a little square came up advising me that 'Your account has been disabled for violating our terms. Learn how you may be able to restore your account.' Then a blue Learn More box underneath which I clicked on quickly. The next page it took me to asked me all sorts of questions about what sort of account mine was, where I was posting from and my personal details.

I think at this stage I was still thinking that I had been logged out accidentally and that once I'd filled in my details I'd have my account back in no time. Obviously I couldn't have violated any of their terms or conditions so nothing bad could happen, could it?

Initially I was texted a six-number code and asked to use it to verify my account, but I couldn't find anywhere I could enter it.

Then I received an email asking me to confirm that I am the owner of my account by taking a photo of myself holding a hand written sign that includes my full name, user name and a code supplied in the email. The photo had to be well lit, include both my hands holding the sign and my whole face. Unless I fulfilled their requirements they would not be able to help me.

Although by this stage I was starting to realise that my account wasn't just going to reappear, I didn't trust the 'Hi, Thanks for contacting us. Before we can help we need you to...' email either. It felt like some sort of scam.

Maybe I'd been hacked!

I fully remember the first time I ever heard about Instagram. It was 2011 and we were about a week away from heading off on our caravan adventure, having coffee with my sister Emily in Fitzroy. She, who had originally introduced me to the period tracker app that changed my life, showed me through an app that allowed you to put filters and frames on the photos you took on your phone. She said it was possible to then go on and share your edited photos with the world, but she chose not to. Before this we'd played with the Hipstermatic app that made our photos look old school, but Instagram felt a bit more user friendly and natural.

I also remember the first time I shared an Instagram photo for the world to see and I promptly tweeted that I hadn't realised that Instagram was actually a social media, complete with comments and likes and follows.

And there began the slippery slope:Travel around Australia in a vintage caravan, take pictures, geotag the pictures, explain in the caption what we were doing, post, follow friends and family back home as they caught on, look at their pictures, like their pictures. Repeat. And it was simple and a bit messy back then. We used lots of filters, posted everything unselfconsciously and often, popped our photos in frames and liked everything we saw.

When we got home and I wrote a book about our travels I used Instagram to publicise it, I started seeing our farm differently as I posted it in squares and people liked them. And then one day I posted a picture of a cute, yellow vintage caravan I saw and got a notification that it had hit the popular page. I still have no idea how that happened or what it meant, but it sent a truckload of followers my way and that felt good.

In 2014 I got an email telling me that I was one of Instagram's suggested users which again sent 1,000's of new followers my way. But as I clicked on many of their profiles and saw that they were sexy models wanting followers, scary guys posing with weapons or cash, and buy-lots-of-follower accounts, I started blocking them and feeling icky about my life being so public and accessible.

On July 6th 2015, Instagram published a short story about us on their blog called 'Growing food with love and integrity'. That felt very exciting and brought with it a lot of interest from all over the world, including a follow and a post from Jamie Oliver!! (I still get a kick when he likes my photos and watches my stories.)

Instagram sent me Christmas presents for a few years in a row and last September we attended a party they threw with a table laden with food that looked like a garden, boxes of fancy doughnuts, stickers, badges, speeches and a photo booth.

Basically, apart from a couple of spikes, my Instagram life has been pretty low key and full to the brim with photos of farming, knitting, mothering, travelling and other family adventures, sometimes slightly filtered, often rambly-captioned, occasionally hash-tagged, mostly taken on my phone, never sponsored, never stolen, and never sexy.

And although over the years I have questioned the algorithms, the designerness, the use of proper cameras, the fact that people have several accounts, the dodgy ways people go about accumulating followers, and the fact that it feels much less friendly and much more businessy than it used to, I feel like I have stuck to what works for me and been true to that.

Which brings us back to last Saturday and all the awful thoughts that were starting to run through my mind. Had my account been hacked? Had someone reported me? Would I ever get it back? Could someone else use my profile? Did I have all the photos saved? How would I let people know? How would I ever find some of the profiles again? Was this the end of @foxslane?

Eventually Bren came in, I filled him in and he started googling. There were stories about some celebrities being hacked but nothing yet about the little people.

I posted to twitter, I took the photo with the information Instagram had asked for and sent it to them, I posted on Facebook and then I waited.

I felt like I'd been punched in the guts but I didn't cry or make a fuss. In fact I think I was quite calm. When the girls came in and we told them they weren't all that empathetic which annoyed me, considering how hysterical they have been known to be when they close all the tabs on their computers by accident or think they might have deleted an essay. But they eventually came around.

Later that Saturday afternoon reports started dribbling in that other people had lost their accounts too, including this blog post, and that this was quite a wide spread thing. Somehow, once I was aware that it wasn't only me, I felt more secure in my faith that order would eventually be restored and that I'd get my account back in due course. It might have been naive faith but it helped me move on and enjoy the rest of the weekend in any case. Including a switched off, unphotographed fathers' day which I can't help but think might have been farmer Bren's best present of all.

On the three days that I was locked out I noticed that I posted to and read Twitter for the first time in years, I posted thoughts, videos and photos to Facebook that weren't related to my blog and I enjoyed the interaction, I left my phone in the charger for long stretches of time, I checked every few hours to see if my account was back, I worried about how I would ever contact some of the people I chat to in instagram daily but have no other way of finding, when people wrote to tell me they missed my feed, checked to see if it was back, or had written to Instagram about me it meant the world to me. People wrote me the kindest messages. I was in the dark but I didn't feel like I had been forgotten.

I seriously wanted to be the type of person who didn't care so much about being locked out of an app. My life is dirt under my finger nails, knitting cabled beanies, cooking food my kids won't eat and cutting myself a crooked fringe, I live in the real world. But I did care. I do care.

I thought a lot about how much power we give over to our personal lives in social media. How we can spend years building up these beautiful profiles and relationships only to have them deleted with no warning or reason. How much care we put into our photos and responses only to have the apps dictate algorithms that feel random and sometimes cruel. And how much I take for granted that what is there will always be there.

More than once over those three days I wanted to refer to a photo to remind me of the date or of how something looked, only to remember that I couldn't access the information. I have the photos saved in my library, but I need to find a way to back up the captions and comments and to be able to contact some people who I feel like I know so much about but don't even know how to contact in real life.

On Saturday Miss Jazzy informed me that she was upset that I'd had my account disabled because it meant she'd lost a follower!!

On Sunday I posted to Facebook -
things i didn't get 2 post on instagram this weekend - sock knitting, wooden bowl carving, bundt cake baking, daffodil picking, organic farming - pretty controversial, no wonder instagram blocked me
On Monday I heard that people were slowly getting their accounts back and so I had confidence that it was only a matter of time until I had mine. On Monday it also snowed which was a bit mean considering I couldn't post videos and photos of the beauty. And seriously, if it snows and you don't post it on social media - did it even snow?

And then on Tuesday morning it was there! Everything exactly as I'd left it. Phew.

I had an email from Instagram informing me that it was back and 'we apologise for any inconvenience caused' but no reason for the inconvenience.

And aside from lots of lovely comments on my photos, that's about it. I'm happy to be back but I'm slightly more wary too.

So there you have it. That's my locked out of Insta story. If you're reading this because it's happened to you and you've found me through googling it, I hope it brings you some comfort - you are not alone.

So how about you?
Are you a social media addict?
Do you feel like you control your social media or does it control you?
Have you had a scary app moment?
Is all your online stuff backed up?
Do you ever wonder about all that data out there and what happens if it all disappears?

Have fun out there!

Love Kate



  1. I think I use it differntly now than when I just started using it- about the same time as you did. I sometimes post photos I've taken on my 'real camera' because it forces me to use it more regularly. I have gone through times where I have posted multiple times a day but now, its really only when I have something to share , rather than becasue I "should". It's tricky when you are using it to promote a business, as there is some pressure around using it the right way and "growing" your followers, which I find so cringeworthy. I think the fake followers thing is really creepy to, I dont understand it. Etsy called me a "micro-influencer" on a Q + A video they did and that was werid, it sent a lot fo traffic but Im still not really sure what it means? i follow thousands of accounts- lots of florists, stylists, illustrators, makers, artists and photographers, I find my feed inspiring in so many ways. I like to see other peoples daily lives, i think the good thing about stories is that it shows the real stuff, i think sometimes accounts are quite curated - that is not necessarily a bad thing- but I find the stories is where you see and hear the real deal and I love that. Im glad your back I missed your photos. xx

  2. Hello!
    I haven't been locked out of Insta and I hope never to be. I am so glad you have your account back.
    I was thinking on your words of how you felt when the account suddenly disappeared off into the ether. The thought that popped into my head was that feeling you get when a great friend, you know the one that you really feel gets you, suddenly stops communicating with you. And that lurch in your tummy, the sick feeling. The second guessing, the wondering if you did something wrong.
    I am sorry this happened to you, and I am exceptionally pleased you are back xx

  3. I'm very very pleased you are back. I tried to have an insta break but your stories drew me back, honestly that was what I missed the most. So I'm back there and mighty glad you are back there too.

  4. My Instagram account was hacked a while back, all photos gone from there, lost all followers who, for my small account, were more like friends to converse with like old friends, many from my blogging days, old friends. It felt terrible then and can make me sad now. I am more careful about saving the photos elsewhere now. I'd say I am a pretty regular user (2-3 checks per day). I very much enjoy the reverberation of kindred spirits, the inspiration, the encouragement, the love. I'm sorry that you experienced those bad feelings too. xx ~ Annri

  5. So pleased to have you back Kate, Insta isn't the same without you. That snow is absolutely amazing, I have never seen snow before, IRL! Have a lovely weekend x

  6. My husbands account was hacked,he was locked out of it, but his pictures,mostly of our beautiful family were available for all to see with someone elses name attached to them, also with all his followers. We were so upset and did not hear from Instagram at all despite doing the "include a picture of yourself thing". Left a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth so I closed my account. More time for my knitting and garden,I dont miss it at all now. Kate your blog is so gorgeous! Those snow photos are divine.

  7. So glad you are back! I thought you had closed your account when, sitting on the lounge late at night, I said to my husband "look at this potting shed..." and nothing was there.
    I am an Instagram fan, facebook less so, and I like to take photos of my garden, kids, books and coffee. My account is private and I don't use #. It really is a way of recording memories for me and I like to know it is saved and there for me to scroll through like a photo album. I would hate for those pictures to be gone. I would hate for yours to be gone as well :)

  8. A number of photographers I follow were also locked out of their accounts for no reason....what you are asked to do to get it back sounded very creepy...almost like a ransom pic. Glad it's back up again but you were not the only one here in Australia and the US.

  9. Hey so glad it snowed for you, bet it didn't last long though. Know what you mean about technology. I had to turn off and reset my tablet as an advert had totally blocked Facebook for me and I couldn't change it. When reset I had lost all my blogging sign in's and couldn't get them back. Hence no comment on your last lovely post. But I have persevered and all on my own have got it sorted ( don't ask me how though). So I'm feeling pretty smug now and commenting on your blog. By the way I like Jamie Oliver, I love the way he tries to change things and makes cooking and baking easy for the time poor people. He also did a lot for the Rotherham area and was sorry to see the Ministry of Food close in the town centre it did a great job educating people. They used to come for after school clubs in school when I was working. Keep up the good work Kate love your blogs.

  10. It is a bummer when things like this happen, and frustrating when you don't know why!
    Luckily I saw the first episode of Revolution before I ever did the Instagram thing, and am constantly reminded of my littleness when I get three new followers, but remain at 211 followers. So I usually leave the house without my phone, unless I know I definitely will need it. I love the hours of the day when I'm outside without technology - the birds singing, the train going by. Life!

    Karen @karenjuliano_on_ig

  11. I don't use Twitter, so my two main social media accounts are Facebook and Instagram. Facebook is more family and close friends, and more local interests..although I do have yarny friends and GISHWHES mates on there....instagram tends to be for the people that are not "in-real-life" friends....I also follow travel, yarn, photography, etc accounts on there. I check FB daily, but sometimes I'll go a day or two without checking Insta..but I'd be very sad if I was locked out.....

  12. I'm over IG at the moment. I'm pulling back from it a bit to refocus on my blog, because I don't like that social media isn't my own platform like my blog and these kinds of things can happen for no reason. I also realise that the amount of extra time I've been putting in to IG hasn't amounted to anything so I may as well take a step back and spend my screen time doing some other things - like reading & commenting on blogs! :-)

  13. Gosh! How stressful for you. I really admire how you dealt with it! I think I would have panicked quite a bit, although having said that I do save my images and I have quite a 'small' account. I do like Instagram although I get frustrated by some of the games people play with the follow, unfollow etc. But I love looking at people's lovely images of nature, flowers, knitting etc! I try not to let it rule me, or take things personally, but at points I don't always succeed. Love the snowy pics Kate and as always I love how you write and what you share here and on Instagram! Big kisses, Lucy xxxxxxx

  14. Lucky you got your back! My account was disabled for the same reasons yours was and all I post are kids full clothed pics and homeschool photos! I emailed, FB messaged and nothing from Instagram land.
    I opened a new account and so far so good, But I found out IG has done it to a HUGE amount of people and they never get their accounts back.

  15. Hi Kate,
    Love that you share your life on social media & grateful I get to watch from the sideline. I work in it and what has been made public was a global hack over this last week where millions of emails and usernames were stolen. As there has been no ransom ware attached to this attack it has not received publicity. Remember to change your password on all your accounts each month. Don 't use sequences and never click on links. One of the latest tricks is to leave USB sticks in public locations and curious people stick them into their computer and upload a virus. Mobile phones are easy to hack also via Bluetooth,, so keep that turned off when it is not required.

  16. Thankyou for sharing your experience.. its a timely reminder that we dont have full control of these platforms even tho its our life we're posting about. Love the snow photos...

  17. I've never had a problem with instagram before. Hope it doesn't happen again. Your photos are beautiful by the way.

  18. Hi Kate, I can imagine your horror. I had my Pinterest account suspended for no apparent reason - it's where I bookmark everything instead of bookmarking to my computer. It did eventually reappear. I would be very upset to be asked to send a photo as was requested. Did you end up having to send the identification photo as asked???

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Kate XX

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