Where do I start? Not my usual blog post but one I felt was important to write as I know so many others have found themselves in this situation too - for no obvious reason, Facebook disabled all my social media accounts. And because Facebook owns Instagram this included my blog Facebook page, my blog Instagram account and both my Facebook and Instagram personal accounts.
Years of memories, years of hard work just gone, apparently permanently. And no way to speak to anyone at Facebook, just forms and bots. Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it, Facebook simply doesn't care.
It all started about 5.30 pm on Friday 22nd October. I had been in a zoom meeting with my son, the meeting finished and I picked up my phone and flicked to Instagram. And it was gone .... and all I had was a message 'your account has been disabled. Follow the next steps within 30 days so you can request a review'. I did that immediately but sadly it just isn't that simple. I then looked at Facebook and got 'We've suspended your account. It looks like you're not old enough' and gave me 30 days to disagree.
Here is what happened next and how I managed to get all my accounts back within 4 days.
Before I go into the details though, let me tell you how I was feeling. I didn't cry but I just felt utterly defeated, exhausted and devoid of any energy to deal with it. I have been here before in October 2018 when I lost my personal Instagram account for quite a few weeks. I had pretty much given up when it reappeared. So I knew this was going to be a huge challenge and take a lot of my time. Time which I don't have much of at the moment, life is busy! My daughter is home from uni for half term, my son needs some help with a legal issue he is dealing with, I care for my parents, and I want to write my blog, not deal with the monolith that is Facebook.
I love writing, I love sharing bits of my life, I love style and I love helping others. My Instagram means readers and brands find me. And I love using it as a personal style diary. My Facebook account is more personal, I have been sharing family life for a long time! I love the memories popping up. It is irreplaceable. Yes I still have the photos, but not the anecdotes. I also belong to a lot of support groups. And have a lot of friends online.
Social media is in my opinion time-consuming, addictive and damaging to our mental health, mindless scrolling is not good for us. And every day we hear about Facebook allowing self-harm, suicide, hate fuelled posts and worse - and they block little me, for what? For being hacked? So many negatives and yet we still use social media - it is the way to be seen in business and has allowed so many women in particular to start small businesses and be visible, as a main income source or a side hustle.
Here is what I found out and did ...
Filled out every form that came my way and yet nothing worked as per the Facebook Help Centre, I'd read one set of guidelines, go to my account and my screen wasn't the same.
Don't keep sending the same form in, Facebook will see this as spam and will eventually ignore you completely. And I was being ignored anyway! It can get worse!
You are not dealing with a real person only a bot, so keep the emotion out and just deal with the facts.
Do not pay anyone to help you, especially if you get offered a solution on Twitter, they are all just after your money and cannot help.
Keep a note of what you do, and take a screen print of every stage in the process, you will forget and you may need to provide info or retrace your steps.
Watch YouTube videos! It was this video from Blake Fontana that led me to the breakthrough solution!
Don't give up! However, frustrating it is and however exhausted you are!
Ask friends, I reached out to Beth Goodrham a stylist and blogger I met through Instagram, Beth lost an account with 25k followers - she eventually got it back with a lot of hard work and she wrote this blog post which has a lot of detailed information in it which you might find useful - Being hacked is horrible, how to protect yourself by Beth Goodrham at Style Guile
To protect yourself in the first place, always have two-factor authentication on! However, this didn't stop it happening to me but it is at least some protection, maybe! You can also generate backup codes (take a screen print and save them in your notes) - but I couldn't use them, no idea why! You can also nominate a trusted friends to help! And as an extra tip, Rachel @fashionable_later recommends not using the email you advertise as your login email for social media, which makes complete sense! She also says you should have two-factor authentication on all your accounts including WhatsApp and Email, I have a lot of work to do then!
How did I eventually get my accounts back?
Well for Instagram it is a little easier, once you report it, you might be lucky and get an actual real live human being email you. Instagram ask for you to provide Proof of ID (passport) and then you need to send them a photo of you holding a piece of paper with a reference number and your essential information - Instagram handle and your full name. When you reply with this info - you are actually talking to someone! Keep to the facts, but explain you have done nothing wrong!
Facebook is far more difficult, they only give you a form to fill in and you never get to communicate with a real person. But here is what I did ...
I bought an Oculus Quest 2 for £299 at John Lewis (and returned it). Oculus is owned by Facebook. And they have a support desk manned by real people. You need to buy one to get the serial number! You cannot use your Oculus headset without a Facebook account and if your Facebook account has been disabled then Oculus will talk to Facebook on your behalf and sort it out. They want your custom so it is in their best interests to help.
I filled in the Oculus online support form, then I got an email from a real person, I had to provide some essential information and I was told it might take up to 7 days to get sorted. The next day my Facebook account was back and Facebook emailed and said sorry for the inconvenience!. Thanks for the stress!
Once I got Facebook back, my Instagram accounts quickly followed.
I did the security review, found out why I had been disabled - I had indeed been hacked and the hacker had posted a photo that got flagged up - how that is possible with two-factor authentication on I do not know - I changed my passwords and I was back.
Now to pop to John Lewis and return my Oculus - sorry Oculus but desperate times call for desperate measures and I am eternally grateful for your help. I really hope they don't close this loophole but maybe Facebook might realise they need to offer much better support. Currently it is beyond rubbish. People rely on social media for their job, business, income, social interaction, support network and more, you cannot just cast us off and not care.
Hours and hours of time I won't get back but I am glad I got my accounts back. I do think though that my approach to social media is gradually changing. I hated being held to ransom by Facebook. I think there will eventually be a backlash against them.
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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