The stress both professionally and personally of clicking on your IG app only to discover that you have been mysteriously ‘locked out’ is immense.  None of the ‘steps’ worked to log back in, and the appeals process in Pirouette’s case brought no response let alone a resolution. In fact it was only through contacting a colleague’s contact working at Facebook and pleading she take a look that suddenly the account came back online.

Karen Holt is a photographer and mother of two, her account promotes both her work and documents her memories for many years. Like many others Karen’s IG account was in her words ‘taken from her in the night’. So what did she do to get it back…

Told by Photographer Karen Holt

It was over breakfast that I was casually checking my Instagram when I noticed it was glitching. Slight flickers on the screen that I dismissed as island wifi. And then suddenly, “you’ve been logged out”. Quick flick over to emails and I saw in the middle of the night there had been some unusual login attempts to my Facebook account from a browser I never use. My heart started beating a little faster, but still not too worried because my account was protected, right? That’s what these emails were for – to protect me. Until the next email. A name I did not recognise had taken over my Facebook Business manager and started joining groups I didn’t recognise.

The panic was starting to rise as I frantically went through the process of securing my Facebook account. I shouldn’t have been so frantic. I should have taken a deep breath and slowed down. I barely remember those moments as the realisation that I had been hacked began to seep in. I tried to login and was greeted with messages saying my account had been disabled due to posting something that went against the Facebook Community Guidelines. I wouldn’t be able to post or comment for 72 hours. It seemed simple. Secure my account. Let them know there was a mistake. Let them know I would never do something like that. Just tell them none of this was me and it’s just a hacker trying it on. Facebook had given me 30 days to appeal their decision. Plenty of time. Right?

I quickly realised that my Instagram had been disabled too because, remember? Instagram and Facebook are one company. There are many places in the platforms where the two are connected especially if you have a business account. This was a much bigger problem. My Instagram, years and years of building a community, sharing images and words – my experience of motherhood, often notes to my children – potentially gone. Connections made, moments shared. People who had become friends in real life. How would I remember them all to contact them? What would be the impact on my little business? Would I have to start again? Would clients drop me? So many questions racing through my mind in nano seconds that felt like years were passing at the same time.

First things first; Secure your account. Yes, this account belongs to you. Just simply enter the code we’ve sent to your phone and you will be back in. No code arrives. Click the button to get another code. Still no code. Click the button one more time. Error – you’ve asked for too many codes. Wait 24 hours to try again. 4 weeks went by and I never got a code. Nor could I submit any report at all. Each day became a process of trying to submit reports, looking for new ways to contact Facebook or Instagram. Wondering each day if I was getting through or if it was another computer reading the words I was desperately trying to shout out into the ether.

I started becoming extremely untrusting of the computer system in general. So caught up in the mind maze of wondering how this had happened and were they still there in my computer? Next stop, update all security systems. Check my website for malware. Update, update, update. Submit more reports. Each day just becoming consumed by lists and ticking them off. I started to wonder if anyone worked at Facebook or if Mark Zuckerberg was just taking us all along on a one-man-wonder-ride?

Then finally with just 5 days left, a contact. A way to speak to a real person at Facebook. One email later and I had an apology from Instagram for the inconvenience. Hands shakily logging in wondering if it really could be that simple; I was back in. Tears pricked my eyes as I slowly let it seep in that I had done it, I’d gotten my account back. All my words and images jumping off the screen at me, all the emotions of each moment washing over me with these fresh emotions of grasping something tangible that moments ago wasn’t there.

Restoring my Facebook was a more complicated process, undoing the work of the hacker and reclaiming my memories there. I worked out how the hacker got in – I didn’t have 2 factor authentication set up on my Facebook. The truth is I barely use it these days. I had it on my Instagram but didn’t for one minute think about the connection between the accounts. Didn’t give it a second thought how easy it would be to bring it all down.

It sounds silly, but I’m a different person after this experience. I’m smarter. I’m more wary. I’ve lost a little bit of the magic that I once saw in the world which has been replaced by the darker side of what the internet can be. I won’t stop creating though. I won’t stop being in this world because I know that this is the way of the world now. It’s only reinforced to me how we much we rely on social media for contacts, for our businesses, for friendships held over years and connections made in real life. I also see that it is the world my children will grow up in. I can’t turn my back on it. I need to be in it for them, to be there guide, their protection and someone in the know. But more than that, it can be a beautiful place for connection, I’ve made friends on social media that have become my real life friends.

It got me thinking about social media – it’s so intangible in many ways and yet it tangibly holds aspects of our lives. Our achievements, our relationships, our little worlds and what we choose to share. Something was taken from me in the night, but was it really mine to begin with? If we can’t control it how much of it is ours? How much had I associated my identity with this account? I realised it wasn’t actually me. It was just something I created. Did it validate me? I hope not. What about a validation for my business? It shouldn’t be. But in a world of likes and shares, in many ways it does. Is that ok? I’m not sure. We do have the power to choose who we follow. We have the choice to choose accounts that inspire, educate and align with our world views.

I’ve learnt a lot about people. I’ve seen extraordinary acts of kindness and solidarity. I’ve seen people do everything in their power for me and my business. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many supportive messages. I’ve seen the good in people. I’ve seen the other end too. I’ve seen people sit in silence and I never realised until now just how silence can speak volumes. That in your darkest moments there can be people who distance themselves. I see that I’m ok with that. It gives me clarity. I see more clearly the kind of person I am. I see I’m still learning. And most importantly, I see that in the moment something was taken, something was given to me too.

Story by Karen Holt @urban.earthmama

Illustrations by Giselle Dekel @giselle_dekel 


Discover more about photographer Karen Holt in her Pirouette Parent & Child Interview