This is not the usual beauty post, but I’m disturbed, befuddled, and still somewhat perplexed with Instagram, and I’ve been combing the internet for answers.
I’m so busy in my “real life,” juggling nine children, a home business, social media, my blog, and everything else I do (often all at the same time), that I don’t always see what’s happening right in front of my face – or behind my back.
I’m Sure I’m Not the Only One
That is why I’m writing this. There are so many things I’ve been blind about – or maybe just overlooked? – but the deactivation of hundreds, if not thousands of Instagram accounts, at least a few dozen people whom I personally know (which I believe has something to do with the recent Instagram breach), led me to start doing some research to find out what-in-the-Instagram-world is really going on.
My Eyes Are Open Now
And, I’m going to help open yours, if they aren’t already seeing what has been happening. I’m about to spill the tea on what I’ve found out.
It’s no secret that social media can help anyone get more exposure for whatever they are into. Be it their travels, their small business, or our lovely beauty industry, if you want to share what you are selling, whether it is a service or products, head to social media!
There are literally billions of people on each social media network. Everyone tends to have their favorite online social scene to use, as you probably already know. Some people like Twitter more, others like Facebook, and still others use Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Snapchat more – and there are plenty of others social networks, too.
But, there are thousands (if not more) who rely on Instagram completely – or nearly completely – to promote their business, and their income depends heavily on their Instagram accounts.
Which is scary.
And you’re about to find out why.
I’ve been leaning the most on Instagram for a while now to get exposure for my blog. And, it’s been working nicely for me, but little did I know what I was going to be facing. Or the obstacles that would be thrown in my path.
It’s been about 5 years since Facebook acquired Instagram. The problem with this is, what happens with Facebook typically happens with Instagram. So, when Facebook decided to change their algorithm that distributed the posts we all see from the “chronological” way to the “popular” way, they thought it would be a good idea to do that with Instagram, too.
For instance, it used to be that if you posted something at 12 noon, and a popular (lots and lots of followers and engagement) account posted at 1 pm, your post would show up first – chronologically. Now, with the new algorithms, if you post something at 12 noon and a popular account posts at 1 pm, your followers are more than likely going to see the popular post and may never even see your post!
What Does That Mean For Smaller Accounts That Are Trying to Grow?
It means that it is almost impossible to grow if you’re a small account trying to establish and gain more exposure. It also means less chance of new followers and much fewer likes and comments on your posts. I’ve heard too many people complaining that their likes and comments have decreased tremendously and it happened to me, too.
(And, we all know that the⏫ the follower count and engagement, the ⏫sponsorships, partnerships, sales, gigs, and possibly even cash you can acquire.)
Then Shortly After the Data Breach…
To add insult to injury, this Instagram data breach happens just a few days ago, and then, all of a sudden, people’s Instagram accounts start deactivating left and right. And Twitter goes crazy. Under @instagram’s Twitter account’s posts, you can see hundreds of people complaining that they’ve done everything that they were instructed, and still don’t have their accounts back.
Instagram isn’t even acknowledging the issue!
Some people have been asked to enter a code that Instagram sends to them via text messaging, while others have to write a code provided to them via email on a piece of paper, hold the paper with both hands showing, and take a selfie. How you can show both of your hands in the pic while you’re holding a piece of paper is beyond me, but those are the instructions.
Ironically, my Instagram account was deactivated on July 6th, way before all this happened. I had actually posted about it on Instagram after my account was reactivated. When I tried to use Instagram that night, I got this message:
I clicked on the “Learn More” button and it allowed me to send a complaint to Instagram. It did not explain what I supposedly did wrong.
A little while later, I received this email from “Instagram Team:”
So, I did what they said to do promptly…and waited…and waited…and waited…
And nothing happened. I still couldn’t log in to Instagram. I kept getting the same message.
Instagram’s Terms and Conditions
I want to interject at this point that during my deactivation period, I read their “terms” a dozen times, over and over again. I had done nothing wrong according to their terms. (If you want to read Instagram’s terms, go to your profile and click on the three dots in the upper right hand corner of the page. Scroll down and you will find it close to the bottom of the list. If you can’t get into your account right now, you can find them here.)
If you want to scream and holler that deactivating your account isn’t fair, take note that Instagram clearly states in their terms:
We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Instagram service for any reason, without notice at any time.
If your business, or whatever you are doing, relies solely on your Instagram account, you might want to think about that. If your income totally relies on your Instagram account, you might want to come up with a Plan B.
After no less than a dozen emails to Instagram, I receive this email:
A simple, meaningless apology. And then directing me to their useless Help Center if I had more questions? No explanation of what I had supposedly done, either.
On Twitter, I saw someone post something similar:
No details as to how this person supposedly violated the Instagram terms, just like what happened to me. Are we supposed to guess? How do we know what we’re doing wrong if you don’t tell us, Instagram? And, if we really violated your terms, does it make sense that you are reinstating our accounts with an (albeit ridiculously lame) apology? Did we actually violate your terms or is something else going on?
With this happening to so many accounts right now, I highly doubt that all these people have violated terms.
What about the scammers on Instagram?
Has anyone seen the fake accounts trying to say that they are Mavis Wanczyk, the lottery winner? The police have been warning people not to fall for the scam, yet those accounts are still live on Instagram right now! People are reposting them so fast, I can’t possibly keep up warning just the people whom I know!
Then, I could call out specific accounts that post fake giveaways in which there are often fake winners or the winners never receive the prizes. Why not shut them down? That’s fraud! If that’s not a follower hustle, I don’t know what is! (A whole ‘nother blog post for another day.)
Why mess with the people who are trying to make an honest living? Or to establish their name as an influencer in their niche? Or otherwise trying to do good and get ahead?
This random verification procedure should be called just that – a verification. People should not be told they violated terms if they didn’t. And, if they did, they should get more of an explanation than a generic list of terms.
If Instagram is trying to get rid of fake accounts, that’s fine. Just don’t tell honest people who follow the rules that they are violating the terms and have them sitting there, reading them over and over and over again, scratching their heads.
That first “verification” or violation of terms, or whatever you want to call it, wasn’t enough for Instagram, though. Just now, smack in the middle of writing this blog post, I go over to check my Instagram notifications.
While responding to a comment, my screen flicks and I see:
None of the comments were spam, and my post and my response definitely were not spam!
I try again and the comment goes through.
Then! My screen flicks again!
And the dreaded, yet partially anticipated, however, praying-I wouldn’t-have-to-deal-with-it-message pops up:
Fortunately, I was prepared and I was back in my account smoothly. I’m not going to lie, though. My stomach wretched and I felt like I was going to be sick until I was back in my account.
But, wait a minute, Instagram! You were just hacked and now people’s private phone numbers and email addresses are being sold on the dark web! And you force me to put my phone number into my account and promise me it won’t be visible to anyone else? How, pray tell, are you going to protect our private information if you haven’t been able to so far?
Onto the Deets About Fake Accounts, Followers, and Likes
So, we all know that followers and likes can be purchased to make your Instagram account look more popular. Some companies essentially take over your account, and like and comment on other accounts, to attract attention to your account. You know when someone you don’t know likes or comments on your account, you can’t help but check their account out? They take advantage of that natural curiosity.
They also do something that annoys the heck out of me.
They follow your account to get you to follow the account they have been hired to build, and then unfollow hours – or even days – later.
Come on, don’t you know we all have an Unfollow App? I honestly don’t know how accounts actually grow now using this technique, but I still see it happening. Larger accounts, with over 20k followers follow me and then unfollow. I’ve learned not to follow back those accounts. It’s sad that we have to think that way, but that’s what it has come down to. We have to question everyone who follows us.
The other way of buying followers and likes is fairly simple. Your followers and likes will essentially be “empty accounts,” called “bot accounts.” They might have a few pics, and some may even have a lot of pics and somw videos, and they might even have followers, but they are not going to engage with your account – ever. So, you have to be happy with absolutely no engagement except for that one follow or like. It’s like a dead follower.
Instagram has shut down one “botting” company like that called Instagress, but don’t be fooled. There are countless others.
Of course, people are using these tactics on their own accounts. They might not want to spend the money, or they might be afraid to use a company like that, but using the same techniques on their own is a bit slower, and just as unethical.
Personally, I prefer the engagement. But, of course, Instagram has killed that, too.
Which has led to other unethical behavior.
From my research, I’ve found that people have formed Instagram chat groups called pods. In the real world, a pod is a group a dolphins, and these groups of dolphins by nature typically have strong social bonds.
In the Instagram world, pods work together to help the pod members boost each other’s engagement – likes and comments. In turn, this also boosts their content so that more people see their posts. Obviously, this is attempting to cheat the algorithm.
I’ll be honest here. I have participated in a few handfuls of makeup collabs, and in those chat groups, people would post one of their posts in the chat group, and ask for for the rest of us to “show some love.” Others would just say, “new post!” (Hint, hint.) And, obviously, expect us to go like it, and maybe even comment on it.
That behavior would annoy the heck out of me. If I follow you and we engage, I will eventually take a gander to your page and like your posts anyway, so you shouldn’t have to ask. I don’t ask you to do that.
Dont get me wrong – if you like my posts, thank you, I will return the love. That’s supporting each other.
Forming groups to purposely trick the algorithm? Anytime you don’t play by the rules, or play fair, it’s considered cheating. I’m not calling anyone a bad person, so don’t feel attacked. I’m just saying that fair is fair.
I’ll be real here when I say that I broke down when everyone else was doing it just recently, and I asked for support on one of my posts. Honestly, it didn’t feel good, and those 10 likes that the post got from that request for “support” wasn’t worth the drop in integrity that I felt after I did it.
In Instagram pods, though, it’s more rigid than what I’m exemplifying. In fact, there are certain posting schedules and liking and commenting is mandatory on all posts within a short time span of the post going live. There are plenty that are not as rigid, with few rules other than having to follow everyone. All pods have their own rules.
Really, who has time for that, though? The obligation factor, mixed in with my super busy life, wouldn’t even be conducive! But, this Instagram thing has become that important to people.
Screw ethics! 😂😂 Who needs ethics? Popularity is far more important than any morals or values!
Cracking Down on Pods?
There has been recent speculation that Instagram will start cracking down on pods, but how they are going to do this is yet another question altogther. In fact, at least three group chats that I am a member of on Instagram (mostly from makeup collabs) have dissipated for fear that Instagram will target all group chats because of the pod issue, even though we aren’t participating in that behavior.
You Can’t Stop the Pod Behavior, Insta!
Hey, don’t worry too much about it, Instagram! Because people have already started moving their groups over to other apps. How are you going to stop that from happening, Insta?
And before those of you who participate in this whole pod thing get mad at me for saying that it is cheating, I want to point out that Instagram wouldn’t be trying to stop it if it was kosher.
Over-Hashtagging (Is that a word?)
Anyone who has been using Instagram for any amount of time has learned that hashtags are crucial for getting your posts noticed. So, what do we do? We put a bazillion hashtags on our posts.
Don’t get too saucy about it, though, because Instagram will slap you on the hand with a shadowban. I was clueleas when i started hearing about this, so I had to do some research.
What exactly does being shadowban med mean? You may not even realize that you’ve been shadowbanned – or ghostbanned – because you can do and see everything as normal from your perspective as you are using Instagram.
However, no one will be able to see your posts or comments. Your posts will not appear to those who do not follow you if they search the hashtags you put on them. From what I’ve gathered, this happens with business accounts.
Instagram has provided an “answer” for this dilemma, but as usual, it’s generic and almost unrelated:
I have also experienced an occurrence with another type of shadowban, to to speak. Let’s call it tagbanned. It has to do with the tagging system, but I haven’t figured it out yet.
You can google, “I can’t tag people on Instagram,” and see that this has happened to numerous people, but as Instagram goes, no real answers or solutions to problems are provided, anyway. I guess we’ll just have to deal with it, and wait and see what comes of it.
There aren’t many people I know in the beauty niche that haven’t ridden on the follow trains at least once or twice. You see the posts, ” MUA Follow Train!”
I’ve done it myself, but ended up finding out that, most of the time (in my experience), they’re one-way trains. You follow all of the people on the train and wait…and wait…and wait…and maybe one or two follow back. Or they follow and unfollow.
I’m not one to unfollow, either, and I support my fellow people, so if they actually followed me back, it would have been a smart decision.
I’ve met some talented and sweet lovelies through follow trains, but I’ve also learned that if you really want followers, you have to go out there and interact with people and make connections. Isn’t that what social media is all about?
There’s a whole lot of craziness, unknowns, and pod mafia groups circling Instagram, huh? The Underground World of Instagram. You can see why I’m befuddled, and I’m obviously not the only one who feels this way. Why mess with the algorithms in the first place? If Instagram played fair, it seems that more people would play fair, too.
I’m hoping most people already know this, but I feel the urge to point it out. If you use an unfollow app, and someone’s account is deactivated, it will show that person in your unfollowers list.
So, leave your unfollowers app, go back to Instagram, and actually check what’s going on with that person. It may be that they didn’t unfollow you at all. Their account might be deactivated or it might have already been activated and a quick search of the people they follow could easily show you if they’re still following you or not.
What is your take on all of this mess? You can vent, tell me how you feel, or what you think, in the comment section below⏬⏬
You may feel differently than I do! That’s okay! We all have different perspectives, and seeing things from each others’ points of view is crucial!
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