by Michel Van Devender

Yep, I’m officially in Instagram jail. Before January 17, I never knew there was even such a thing! But, here I am over two weeks later, my account is still disabled. And the more I talk to other people, the more I’m learning this happens more than you know, either disabled or hacked. Thanks Instagram!!! And if you’re sure it couldn’t happen to you, I wouldn’t be so sure. 

Outside of the fact that my account has completely disappeared, the worst part is I seriously have absolutely NO idea why it was disabled. I did get an automatic email stating I may have violated the terms of use, indicating I should refer to their policies. So I did, and I still don’t know what I did. Could someone at Instagram, if there is anyone, please let me know what I did? I would greatly appreciate actually being in the know!

You may be thinking, why don’t you just reach out to Instagram? Simple, right? Well, actually it isn’t that easy. I have tried, and when I write tried, I mean TRIED, for two weeks solid to no avail. Oh, and did I mention Instagram does not have a customer service number where you can call and talk to a person? You’re basically left trying to address issues through their platform. I’ve completed every possible form I can find available on Instagram. I’ve emailed customer service, at least two dozen times. I also looked to Facebook since they do own Instagram. I’ve had three live chats with their business concierge department. I have been told, multiple times, they cannot, or so they say, help me with my Instagram account. And since my Instagram account is linked to my Facebook account too, that just doesn’t make sense to me. But really, who am I to question their system?

So far, Instagram customer service has been completely unresponsive. I mean NOTHING, zero, zilch… radio silenceFacebook and Instagram are enormous platforms, driven and monitored by algorithms and bots. I was kind of aware of this before, but keenly aware of how all this works now. And you know what, the reality is they are giants that don’t need to respond to their one billion monthly users. Believe me, I know I’m small potatoes and have an itty bitty account in the grand Instagram scheme. I’m not feeding their machine with thousands of advertising dollars. If you have an Instagram account, and Facebook account for that matter, we’re completely at their mercy, regardless of the size of our accounts. I mean COMPLETELY! It is their platform, and they determine and drive the direction. They call ALL the shots, and we are all merely the sheep following along… bahhh, bahhh, bahhh. Fellow sheep, think about that for a minute. Instagram has the MOST followers! 

I remember listening to a rather big influencer and business coach speak a couple of years ago. I distinctly recall her saying you should not put all your eggs in the social media basket. You have no say in the decisions and direction, you’re a passenger in the back seat at best. You also own none of it – not your profile, none of your content, none of the information about your followers, etc. It ALL belongs to the platform, and it can all disappear. She suggested focusing on constructing a quality website, an engaged community and an email list. In other words, put your energy into building something that is yours! In hindsight, this advice is certainly much more meaningful now.

Again, I know I’m a smaller account, but have nonetheless invested a lot of time, hard work and creative energy into sharing my passions, my point of view, growing organically and building an engaged community on Instagram. And believe it or not, even if I never get the account back, I’d do it all over again if for nothing else than the connections and the learning experience! 

Ultimately, my goal on the platform has always been to share in hopes of inspiring others, even if it’s just one person. If I reached that one person, then I’m good. Instagram has also been a way to connect with and support people and other creatives, local and far away. I have met and built relationships with individuals I would’ve never found without the platform. Some people I’ve actually found on Instagram and then met in person. Losing my account and the connections, well, that’s actually the part I’m most bummed about. 

Life does go on though. And, Instagram is in fact, NOT life, although I do believe social media is designed to make us all think it is. They do everything they can on their end to keep us engaged and on their platforms as long as they can. At the end of the day, it is a business, and a very lucrative one. 

It may take me a minute, but I eventually look for the positives, the lessons and the bigger meaning in most things that happen to me. Big picture, I’m actually okay with my disabled account, and if it never comes back, well than so be it! Here is what I’ve actually learned so far –

1) I was spending way too much time on the platform. Duh… No big surprise or epiphany there! But when you actually cannot get into your account, you become much more aware of how often you’re checking your account. It’s kind of like a hard stop… you go there, but you can’t get in, and then realize you tried to check it 20 minutes ago. And, that happens over and over again. Before when I could get into my account, I was less mindful of the automatic checking and then the major time suck.

2) Less time spent on Instagram means more quality time and presence for my people, family and friends. There’s also more time to devote to the creative things I love, like writing on this blog, painting, cooking, growing my own food, feeding my thrift store addition, and really, the list goes on. There’s also more time for movement and for stillness. And at night, instead of jumping on the platform before I fall asleep, I’m back to reading books. All of this reclaimed time seems like a big win! Kind of a much needed reset if you will.

3) I will be putting more of my time and creative energy into this website where I own my content. It can’t be taken down without explanation by a bot and the powers that be. 

4) Instagram is not the end all be all, nor is it the best and only way to support my creative endeavors and business. I have this blog, and I’m also an artist who makes some products I sell. Thanks to all of you, for whom I’m infinitely grateful, this Black House Blue Sky website gets quite a bit of traffic. And when I look at my analytics, guess what? The majority of you do not find me through Instagram.

5) If and when my Instagram account returns, I will be doing it much differently. If it doesn’t come back, I’ll build another account (I’ve already started @michel.m.vandevender) because I’m determined to not let this disabled account thing stop me from using Instagram the way I’d like to use it. To that end, I will be setting better boundaries around how much time I spent on the platform. I will definitely be spending less time on my content or developing some sort of back-up system so I don’t lose it. I will also keep some sort of log of my followers and would suggest any user do the same. Because guess what, if your account is disabled or hacked and taken down, none of that information is available. Try remembering who all of your followers are.

For now though, I remain in Instagram jail! Let me know if you have a Get Out of Jail Free card :), or know someone who works at Instagram… PLEASE! Also, if you have any experience with getting a disabled account back, I clearly need some help over here!

One last ask, if you have not signed up for our email list, please join! I promise I will not bombard your inbox, but do hope to start sharing more content on this platform with my followers. Thank you so much for being here and following our journey! Until next time…


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