Omar Chaudhry - Cybersecurity Specialist

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How I Got Banned from Instagram (and Why I'm Glad It Happened)

So some time around late 2022 I got banned from Instagram, the photo-sharing social media platform. No worries though, I only had a two-day panic attack.

So a little context: I was a "coffee and cycling lifestyle influencer." In some circles, that can be described as "unenjoyable to be around." I was determined to make a career out of this niche profile. For the most part, it seemed to work. I got a bunch of free stuff, invited to go to things I wouldn't otherwise go to and people thought I was more important than I actually was. When I made memes about specialty coffee or road cycling, I got random strangers liking my posts and following my social media. Getting attention and positive reactions from random strangers on the internet felt good.

Here's the caveat: in order to get that consistent hit of validation, You need to keep bringing content to the table. More content = more things for people to click on and view = more people following your social media pages to see more content = rinse and repeat.

To make this actually viable in any monetary or professional way, you have to sacrifice everything about you in exchange for two things:

  1. Appeasing a social media algorithm that favors trending topics and hashtags.
  2. Giving your followers whatever it is they want.
Neither of those two factors care about your interests, your well-being or your integrity.

So how exactly did I get banned? Well, I purchased 300 followers for $5 sometime in 2018. Instagram had some sort of algorithm that picked up on the fact that most of my followers were bots and poof! It was pretty unceremonious. I thought it would be a great way to game the system. Seven years of memories, ups, downs, memes, and the occasional unwarranted opinion went away.

Fast forward to now (or at least the time where I'm writing this). I now have a new Instagram page that's private and dedicated to keeping in touch with friends and family. I barely touch my social media these days except Reddit and commercial-free YouTube, those are my biggest addictions of all time. While wasting time on YouTube, I come across this video:

This man is Hassan Khadir. He runs a channel where he does an accurate impression of Mickey Mouse, and uses the voice to make Mickey say foul things. I'm surprised that he made a whole career out of this, but I'm not judging. Seeing this video and watching this man go through such stress over the lives of total strangers unnerved me. If people didn't give him attention, he goes bankrupt. Game over.

And while I have a feeling Hassan is a nice guy and I wish him the best, I couldn't imagine having to live that life for the remainder of your existence on the internet. At one point it's got to feel like you want to smash every device you own, leave for the ends of the earth, and breathe.

I've learnt to appreciate and value my digital privacy, and remember that social media clout is nothing compared to having a meaningful life. The key is to remember that real life runs its course, and social media is nothing but a distraction. The blessing in disguise for me was getting banned from Instagram.

It was a hard pill to swallow at first, but accepting it was the beginning of a healthier perspective on social media that I am still carrying with me today. It has been one of the best and most formative experiences I've had with social media. And I think all of us should take the time to give ourselves a digital wellness checkup, and make sure our online presence is a reflection of ourselves that we can feel proud of and that serves us. After all, digital privacy is priceless and we should treat it with as much importance as our physical privacy.

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