If you’re on Instagram, you’ve heard about the dreaded Shadowban. Some people noticed that their photos don’t pop up under certain hashtags they used and immediately concluded they were banned. Shadowbanned.
Shadowbanning is a punishment for spammers on Reddit and other internet forums alike: the shadowbanned user doesn’t know they’re shadowbanned. Everything appears normal, and they can post to the forums as usual. But nobody else can see their posts. Cruel!
The alleged shadowbanning on Instagram worked a bit differently. People claimed that their followers could still see their posts, but the ban applied to hashtags — Instagram wanted to prevent them from reaching out to the users who weren’t already following them.
The truth is, Instagram had a bug. The company acknowledged it, albeit clumsily, in February
. In the middle of April, Instagram claimed to have fixed it.
Just that. A bug within the app.
In the meantime, everybody and their mother came up with their folk medicine cures for shadowbans. “You need to stop posting for three days.” “You need to stop posting for three days, uninstall the Instagram app, change your password, and do a factory reset of your phone.” “You need to delete every first comment on your photos that you’ve posted yourself.” “You need to dance naked around the fire while re-watching your first Instagram stories and repeatedly following and unfollowing your ex.”
The conspiracy theories claimed that shadowbanning is a ploy of an evil corporation that only wants your money. Or to make you look less relevant. Because, you know, why would you become an influencer on somebody else’s expense.
And it’s not over yet! People still claim they’re getting shadowbanned. If you’re on Reddit or any professional Facebook group, you already know that.
But, if there’s no shadowban, why’s the engagement dropping?
The significant amount of activity across the platform appears to have been coming from bots — automated services that will like your content on behalf of other users who would target you through many possible criteria. Instagram has shut down the biggest of them all — Instagress. A couple of smaller ones have also received cease & desist letters.
Instagram’s updates also caused certain downtime recently, and the algorithm keeps changing. To stay relevant, we need to change as well.
So, whatever you do, don’t panic. And don’t think that, if you post a photo and it gets only a few likes, that immediately means you’re shadowbanned. Shadowban doesn’t exist. But downtime exists, misused hashtags exist, the automated likes (which you might not have known were automated) are getting cut off. Sometimes, in social media, you also need to have a bit of luck.