The four ‘official’ reasons your Instagram account might have been shadowbanned:
1. Your account is continually being reported.
2. You are using software that violates Instagram’s Terms of Service, such as buying fake followers or auto-posting websites (Buffer is fine). You can use this link to see how to remove third party posters from your account.
3. You are exceeding your daily/hourly limits of engagement. Depending on the age of your account you receive 150 likes, 60 comments, and 60 follow or unfollow per hour.
4. You are using a broken or abused hashtag. Even innocent hashtags such as #besties can, and have become overrun with ‘offensive’ material. Instagram will ban or limit broken hashtags. So, if you use it, you will get shadowbanned. Here is a list of all banned hashtags in 2019.
Shadowbanning—also called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting—is the act of blocking or partially blocking a user or their content from an online community. Anyone who gets shadowbanned will not be told that they are, and most users will only realise it after a while. Signifiers include a noticeable dip in likes on new posts, or someone else notifying they are unable to tag or search the shadowbanned account.
Shadowbanning has been recorded on various internet platforms since the 80s, but it only started appearing on Instagram in 2017. Instagram explained that the ban is intentionally coded, and that it aims to stop bots, spammers, as well as protect younger users from being exposed to ‘sensitive’ material. With around 1 billion users, it’s impossible for Instagram to monitor all its content manually, so specific topics have been classified as triggering. Because of Instagram’s regular changes to its algorithm, these triggers are hard to keep tabs on. That’s why, in the same way that banks might block your bank account as soon as they see fraudulent behaviour on it, Instagram shadowbans an account as soon as it deems it contains triggering content. However, as many people have witnessed in the last few weeks, the ban can sometimes block some accounts that don’t seem to be violating any terms. The question is, what does Instagram really qualifies as ‘triggering content’, and what can be done to avoid getting shadowbanned?
This week, Instagram has started its trial to remove likes (mostly in the US for now). The social media platform also asked for a push in ‘authenticity’, and yet, there seems to be a rising number of accounts deletion and censorship. What I’ve noticed myself on my Instagram feed has recently been confirmed by journalist Chanté Joseph in an article for The Guardian, which highlights how the platform is shadowbanning creative accounts, and queer inclined ones more specifically.
London’s party and DJ collective Pxssy Palace has been one of the many accounts affected by the shadowban. Screen Shot spoke with them about it, “There is no denying that the algorithm is targeting specific groups as we can all see it for ourselves. Not being able to search people’s accounts under the ban, not seeing posts from people in months and the list is continuously growing. The fact is that racist posts have been left on feeds as they ‘do not break any of the community guidelines’ and it’s wack, as we have people’s accounts being taken down left, right, and centre for calling out these racist, homophobic individuals.”
Talking about how long exactly this has been going on, the collective added, “This has been going on for a while now, it’s been BPOCs who have been heavily targeted for also speaking out time and time again. The algorithm will never favour us and Instagram denying time and time again that it doesn’t shadowban is beyond frustrating now. It’s also frustrating how much we have been relying on this platform to connect with our community and inform them about events, so we are beginning to foster community offline and in other methods such as mailing lists and WhatsApp groups.”
As Pxssy Palace highlighted, this shadowban is particularly distressing to queer accounts, which actually rely on the social media platform to promote and sell tickets for events. As trivial as it might seem, the ban largely affects the LGBTQ community. “We shouldn’t have been relying on Instagram as the only method [for promotion], however, it was a really great tool. The internet could turn off tomorrow and we would have no idea of what’s going to happen—it’s a wake-up call to make sure we are fostering offline communities, so we are protected. At the moment, Instagram is directly affecting ticket sales, and therefore the livelihood of QTIPOC who work with us regularly,” shared Nadine Ahmad with Screen Shot.
The Instagram shadowban supposedly lasts for 14 days, although many users claim that they have been shadowbanned for several weeks, and sometimes even months.
So, if you think you have been shadowbanned too, here are 10 tips to get rid of that nasty shadowban:
1. Detox: Apparently, some people say that a two-day silence helps remove the ban. After that, feel free to keep on engaging, chatting, and using the platform as usual.
2. Hashtag no more: Delete hashtags from your recent posts, as some of these might be blocked or banned. Additionally, place your hashtags in the caption of your posts, not in the comments section, and don’t go overboard with hashtags. Never go near the maximum number of hashtags (30), and never repeat hashtags.
3. Keep it similar: Don’t make sudden changes to your user info, bio, email address during this period. Avoid any mass liking, mass commenting, following or unfollowing spree.
4. Report: Contact Instagram and tell the company that your posts aren’t showing up in hashtag searches, but don’t tell them you’ve been shadowbanned.
5. Pics and vids: Currently, the algorithm favours videos, and imagery over text, especially for sponsored posts.
6. Sock it: Create a backup account, also known as a ‘sock’.
7. Male only: Try switching your profile to Male as @dyelindsey reports.
8. No third party: Check on Instagram which third-party applications you’ve given permission to, and delete as many as possible.
9. C*nsor your language: Use censored language, such as ‘s*x’, and acronyms.
10. No spam: Avoid engaging in any spam-like behaviour, such as mass liking, leaving short, duplicate comments, or regularly using keywords that are likely to flag as questionable.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the tips above help you prepare for the next shadow ban.
Mental health has a lot of stigmas attached to it, and for many of us, speaking out freely about our struggles can be difficult. Somehow, over the years, young people started looking for comfort through memes on social media, which allow them to speak about their concerns with a little more ease. But why is it that, for many of us, it is easier to share our issues through jokes and humour?
Instagram is a paradoxical place. It is no secret that social media platforms are immensely harmful to our wellbeing, and, surprise, surprise—according to a study conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health in 2017, Instagram was proven to be the worst social media platform for our mental wellbeing. There are endless reasons for this, be that the constant anxieties of ‘keeping up’ or comparing ourselves to others.
But users on Instagram are slowly changing the scene, all the while trying to make the platform a better place—whether it’s influencers taking a pledge to be more transparent, or people advocating for Instagram to remove the ‘like’ feature. The platform also serves as a home to an ever-growing online meme community, one that is driving the conversation around mental health, and de-stigmatizing it one meme at a time.
Mental health is a heavy topic, but it doesn’t have to be. “I think there is a lot of great support and conversation, but it is on a more serious tone. And while I think that is necessary, I also think that the seriousness and the weight of it sometimes add to the pressure and the stigma of the illness itself,” @thementallytrillest told Screen Shot. @thementallytrillest is one of the few Instagram accounts prompting the conversation around mental health, through funny, witty and self-loathing memes.
Cori, perhaps better known as @manicpixiememequeen, started her meme account as a way to cope with her own struggles. In 2017, she was experiencing some mental health issues, and her uncle had just tried to commit suicide. “I did what any other person would do: I made an anonymous ‘finsta’ to shout my personal problems out to the void of the internet in the form of memes. The creation process made me feel productive, rather than feeling like I was wallowing or pitying myself,” she told Screen Shot. “@manicpixiememequeen has given me so many incredible opportunities to generate discussion about mental health,” Cori added. She went on to speak at Stanford University, and she even had several therapists message her, thanking her for posting the memes. “Some of their patients have used my memes to start a conversation in private sessions,” Cori explained.
For some members of the older generations, memes do not carry as much cultural significance as they do for the new gen. Of course, depicting our personal struggles through memes may seem like an unconventional coping mechanism, but when it comes to mental health, our generation is the most outspoken one. Memes make difficult conversations easier to have—somehow seeing somebody go through the same struggles as you, and still be able to laugh about it makes you feel like you can relate to people, and in the end, it makes you feel a bit better.
“Mental health issues can feel and be incredibly alienating, and memes that address these issues help people feel less alone and may even encourage them to speak and seek help,” Alia, also known as @memesturbationation on Instagram, shared with Screen Shot. She explained that memes not only help her process her feelings, but help her acknowledge them as well. And this ability to feel less isolated, and to relate to other people online is what creates such a wonderful community, one that is safe and welcoming, and one that uses memes as a unique language for today’s century, driving the growing conversation around mental health.
Odie, known as @not.yr.boyfriend online, has been ‘meming’ since early 2016, and has built a helpful community since then. The purpose of their work is to “embody the work I am doing on myself and in my community.” They explain that they wouldn’t describe their account as a mental health page, but instead as a project of self-work that aims to shift humanity towards a culture of accountability. Memes have the potential to drive a conversation and shift opinions, be that for political or social reasons, meaning that disregarding them or the work that meme creators do would be unfair.
And yet, memes about mental health are still met with a lot of criticism. For example, @memesturbationnation previously received some criticism for her work, accusing her of romanticising and trivialising mental health, to which she responds “I think that’s bullshit. It’s just more people trying to shame and silence those who experience mental health issues. I’ve received way more messages thanking me for sharing my experience with mental illness through memes.” Is it really fair to silence creators who predominantly create a safe space as a coping mechanism of their own, and who are helping so many people online?
Mental health is a sensitive subject, and it is understandable why some people don’t engage with memes depicting subjects of their personal struggles. But Instagram can be used as a tool that many people use to reach out to others who are experiencing the same thing, to let them know that they are not alone, and to show and receive support. The beautiful thing about meme pages on Instagram is how many of them there are. Be it astrology memes, political memes, art memes or mental health memes—there is content for everyone, and a community for all. Mental health meme pages on Instagram are a reminder that it’s okay not to be okay, and they’re accessible for everyone, at any time.