In September 2018, I woke up to a number of texts from friends asking why my Instagram page was suddenly in Russian (they helpfully included screenshots). Obviously, I had been hacked. My contact information had been changed and my pictures wiped. I felt violated watching this person erase my digital footprint, eliminating years worth of memories and, as sad as this may sound, a huge part of my life. 

Following Instagram’s instructions was no help. Either they advised me to do things I was unable to do, since the hacker had changed the account’s contact information, or, most infuriatingly, their instructions did not match the actual prompts on my phone’s screen. This went on for days before I pulled my one and only string: an email to an Instagram PR person I had been working with for a story. In an hour, my account was back. 

On Sunday night, a Twitter user named Danny shared a similar story. While the specific details of his experience are pretty remarkable—he received no warning that someone had accessed his account, and they had to bypass a number of security measures to do so—the outcome, unfortunately, was not. On his own, Danny was unable to get any help from Facebook or Instagram. But then he tweeted about the story, and within 24 hours it was fixed. 

Instagram’s Help center has a section dedicated to hacked accounts. There are ostensibly a number of ways to recover them, which makes it all the more frustrating that they often don’t seem to work. In response to Danny’s thread, many users shared their own hacked-Instagram woes, even asking Danny for tips to get Facebook and Instagram’s attention because they’ve had no luck. 

“Get lucky and have your story front page Reddit / HN / similar,” one user wrote in the replies. “That's the only known way to reach beyond the utterly useless script bots running the helpdesk.”

I reached out to Facebook about this phenomenon—that it seems people are frequently only able to get help if they’re a public figure, can rustle up a public outcry, or know someone at the company—after seeing Danny’s thread but did not hear back. Without these things, you’re basically talking to a wall, which is what you’ll see if you search “Instagram hacked help” on Twitter.

This may sound unimportant to people who view Instagram as more of a hobby, but for many people growing up with social media, it’s akin to losing all your photos in a fire. Having social media accounts is part of establishing yourself as a person, marking your place in the world and proving, maybe even just to yourself, that you exist. And that’s just the people who don’t make a living on it! When your account gets ripped away, it makes sense to shout about it. Instagram apparently just can’t hear you.