Trust me, I’m just as tired of thinking/talking about the notorious Instagram shadowban as you guys probably are of hearing me bitch about it. In fact, I’ve put off writing this particular blog for over a week now, just because the latest developments are SO maddening. However, I feel like this information is extremely important because it made me fully realize how bananas the whole shadowbanning thing is, to the point that I honestly do not know if there is anywhere else to go from here. So, buckle up, buttercup! Here comes a real mind-binder.
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I posted a story to my @courtshootsfilm Instagram account explaining to people what shadowbanning is, because a few people had recently asked me about it. You can view the actual story in that post, but to recap, I demonstrated how my photo of a poisonous blue frog (below) was not showing up under the two hashtags I’d given it – #nashvillezoo and #poisonousbluefrog. I also explained that only the people who currently follow me would be able to see my frog photo in their IG feeds, but anyone who isn’t already following me would not be able to find my photo by searching those hashtags.
My boss’ young daughter was actually the first person to respond to my IG story. She said that she could see my frog photo, even though she isn’t following my IG account. I asked if she had looked up my IG account manually, or did my frog photo just appear in her feed? She said that she had looked me up manually by typing “courtshootsfilm” into her search bar. However, after she saw my IG story, she said that she tried clicking on #poisonousbluefrog, and my frog photo WAS showing up in her hashtag search! To be honest, I thought that maybe she was just confused, so I asked if she would mind sending me a screenshot of her hashtag search. Sure enough…
So, I immediately tried searching #poisonousbluefrog again, and here is what was still showing up on my end:
So, just out of curiosity, I asked her to try searching #editingdust, which is a unique hashtag that I created when I first started this website. So far, no one else has used this hashtag on Instagram but me, so all of the images that appear in this search are either from my own posts or re-posts from other people’s IG accounts. Just before I received my latest shadowban sentence, there were around 90 images showing up for me under the Recent tab for #editingdust. Since I’ve been banned, however, all that shows up for me are the handful of re-posts made from OTHER people’s Instagram accounts, seen here:
So, again, I asked my boss’ daughter to type #editingdust into her search bar and take a screenshot of what she saw under the Recent tab. This was her reply:
Crazy, right??? But wait! It doesn’t stop there.
I added the screenshot above to my IG story to show people how weird this was, and then several more people sent me screenshots that night and the next morning of their searches for #editingdust and #poisonousbluefrog:
Now, since apparently other people CAN see my images when they search #editingdust, you might think that shadowbanning could possibly be just a myth or maybe a misunderstood new “thing” where Instagram has just decided to stop showing people their own images for some crazy reason. I mean, based on the results above, that explanation would seem to make the most sense, right?
Well, not when you take a closer look at those screenshots above and realize that, even though these people CAN see a lot more of my images under #editingdust than I can, they STILL are not seeing the image of Miss S. that I believe got me this current shadowban sentence. Here is the “offensive” image again (below), just to refresh your memory. Since it was the last post I made using the hashtag #editingdust, this photo should appear as the very first photo when you click on the Recent tab. However, as you can see if you scroll back up and look at those screenshots again, this photo of Miss S. does not appear under anyone’s Recent tabs for #editingdust:
Since I was so confused by all this feedback, I considered the possibility that maybe there was just some kind of glitch on Instagram’s end. So, shortly after I posted the frog photo, I decided to post this photo that I took recently in a bar where I was seeing a live show:
I used a few more hashtags for this post, and then I asked one of my friends to please search for my image under a couple of those tags. She chose to search under #reflection_shots and #thebasementeastnashville, and this was her reply:
So, of course, I immediately searched those same two hashtags, and this is what showed up on my end:
Is your brain splitting in half yet?!?!? Because I know mine is!!!!
Last weekend, I showed these results to a friend of mine who is VERY well versed in Instagram marketing/promotion, and even she said that none of it makes any sense. In fact, she spent a good portion of her evening trying to research the issue for me, which included making some posts about it on several discussion boards and FB groups, but she came up empty-handed. She did find something posted on a Reddit page that she thought could be a possible explanation, and so she sent me this screenshot:
However, I don’t believe this statement is true, as I have always been able to see my own photos under the hashtags I use, unless I’ve been shadowbanned. That’s actually HOW I check to see whether or not I’ve been shadowbanned.
Also, as I pointed out earlier, this person’s explanation does not explain why my photo of Miss S. does NOT appear in other people’s searches for #editingdust. That alone proves that shadowbanning DOES exist because that particular image has clearly been banned from being seen by anyone whenever they search under #editingdust. Now, why those same people can still see all of my other non-banned images under that hashtag, but I cannot, is beyond my comprehension.
All of this confusion is now added to the fact that my boss and I are still scratching our heads about how one of the posts that was made on our photography business’ IG account, which has been shadowbanned for months, just randomly blew up one day about a month ago with over 2,000 likes and a reach of over 40,000, SPECIFICALLY FROM HASHTAGS (according to the Insights), even though neither of us could find that same photo when we searched every single hashtag that was used! Not a single post that we’ve made since then has received that much attention, and all of our Insights still show that our images are NOT being found under any hashtags. So what happened with that ONE photo that ONE day on Instagram??? I promise you, we will never know.
So what does it all mean?
After all of this frustrating research, testing, and experimentation in hopes of helping myself and others understand why Instagram shadowbanning occurs, how it works, and what we can do to prevent it from happening to our accounts in the future, the ONLY conclusion that I have been able to make with absolute certainty is this:
NONE. OF. IT. MAKES. SENSE!
My conclusion is based upon the following findings, which were derived from my own personal experience with shadowbanning:
- Shadowbanning can apply to either just one individual post, or to all posts that are made during a sentence duration of either 12 hours or 14 days (right down to the exact minute). However, it is unclear how the length of each shadowban sentence is determined.
- The only way you will ever know if you are being shadowbanned is to constantly check your hashtags and/or Insights.
- You can sometimes be shadowbanned for images that do NOT violate Instagram’s Terms and Conditions OR contain any banned hashtags.
- If you edit your post in any way shortly after you post it to Instagram, it will be shadowbanned immediately, even if your original post was not banned before you edited it.
- While you are serving a 12-hour or 14-day shadowban sentence, YOU will not be able to see your own images under the hashtags you use, but apparently it IS still possible for other people to see your images under those same hashtags, but only if those images are not also deemed “shadowban-worthy” by Instagram. In other words, as punishment for posting an “offensive” image, Instagram will make you THINK that all of your posts are being shadowbanned by hiding your posts from yourself for a certain period of time, but they will still allow others to find your posts under the hashtags you used??? Because that’ll teach ya? I don’t know, man. Your guess is as good as mine.
- It is possible for your account to be continuously shadowbanned (one sentence on top of another), but then one day experience a temporary lift of the ban for just ONE of your posts. This will not only show you the type of reach your IG account COULD get getting if the shadowban didn’t exist, but it will also make you look like you’ve paid for a bunch of likes and comments since NONE of your other posts have received as much attention before this one, nor will they after since the shadowban will immediately resume following this random, one-post lift.
- There is nothing you can do to fix, prevent, or understand shadowbanning. You simply have to wait out each sentence.
And with that, folks, I am officially DONE with this topic.