Instagram Shadowbanning 411: What It Is, How I Got Unbanned, & How I'm Preventing Getting Shadowbanned In The Future

Depending on how present you are on Instagram, you might have heard of Instagram's so called "shadow banning." It's a problem that's been occurring for months now and is a growing problem as it's becoming more and more prevalent.

Ever since I heard about the problem I've been paranoid that I'll be shadowbanned. There hasn't been much rhyme or reason to their shadowbanning pattern. I know of people with personal accounts and business accounts who got shadowbanned. People with under 1k and with over 10k can get shadowbanned. Instagram doesn't let you know that you've been shadowbanned and they have yet to really talk about the issue.

Unfortunately I got hit with the dreaded Instagram shadowban last Thursday. After bitching about it on social media I kicked my ass in gear and did some sleuthing on the issue. I found a few helpful articles on the problem (that I link throughout the post.) This post is basically a summation of everything I read as well as my personal experience with this whole shadow banning bullshit.

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What is an Instagram shadowban?
When you become shadowbanned on Instagram, your photos won't show up in public hashtag searches. Your photos will be visible under hashtag searches to you and your followers, but anyone who doesn't follow you won't be able to find them. As you can imagine that forms a pretty big problem for people with smaller followings since hashtags are the primary way we get exposure.

The term "shadowban" implies that Instagram is purposefully, actively blocking people's photos from hashtag searches but there's no way to know if that's true or not because they've been so mute on the topic. The comment section on this article discusses the possibility that the "shadowban" is a glitch rather than a malicious move on Instagram's part. I'm not the best at interpreting computer programming speak (despite the fact that both my parents are computer engineers ๐Ÿ’ฉ) but their reasoning seem sound to me. While I'm inclined to believe it's a glitch I'm still going to be calling it a "shadowban" cause it's easier.

So far Instagram's response to the shadowbanning problem was to first tell people to focus on creating quality content instead of using hashtags. If you've ever used instagram or really any sort of social media, you know what a load of crap that is. Even if you have the most amazing content in the planet, an audience is not going to appear out of thin air. If you're interested in reading the heaping pile of shit they dished you can find a screencap of it here. They followed up on that by saying they don't have the resources to tackle the problem (which seems like a poor PR move to me-- like hey sorry that our product isn't working, but we still want you to pour money and time into it despite the fact that we won't be trying to fix it.)

How can I find out if I've been shadowbanned on Instagram?
As the implied by the name, Instagram won't let you know that you've been shadowbanned. It's something you need to be proactively looking out for.

Edit: the easiest way to check out if you've been shadowbanned is to use this Instagram shadowban checker! Thanks to @truthlackslyricism@woodnote_song, and @thewayofthesnail for sharing the site :) UPDATE: apparently the site doesn't work anymore and may be spammed/ hacked/ some tech term that I'm sure I'm butchering. The safest way to check if you've been shadowbanned is to check it manually.

The easiest way the manual way to find out if you've been shadowbanned is to search for a hashtag that you've used on one of your recent photos in an incognito window. If your browser doesn't offer an incognito setting, you can sign out of your account on your browser and then search the hashtag. If your photo does not show up under the hashtag search, it means that you have been shadowbanned.

For example, this photo that I shared last Thursday was the one where I was shadowbanned:
A post shared by Sharmili (@sharmtoaster) on

In the caption of the photo I used #saturdayskin. When I search the hashtag when I'm signed in, my photo pops up!

But when I go to my browser where I am not signed in, my photo isn't visible in the top posts or the most recent section. That's when I knew I was shadowbanned ๐Ÿ˜’

How did I get un- shadowbanned on Instagram?
Because Instagram has been so hush hush on the topic, I can't tell you what specifically got me unbanned or really if anything I did helped in my getting unbanned. I've had a few people tell me that they randomly got unbanned after varying periods of time spanning from a week to a few months. Ultimately it took me 4 days to confirm that I was unbanned. After reading this article I decided to try out all the author's suggestions to see if I could get unbanned.

1. First thing I did was delete my comment of hashtags from the shadowbanned photo. Because none of my previous photos were shadowbanned, I decided to leave the hashtagged comments. If I did have other photos that were shadowbanned though, I would delete the hashtags.

2. Next thing I did was clear my search history in my app. I did this by clicking on the settings/ options icon on the app, scrolling all the way to the bottom, and clicking "clear search history.

3. On my desktop I revoked all access to 3rd party apps that might break Instagram terms of service. I was shocked at how many apps that I had given access to my Instagram account and forgotten about. Some were for tracking followers, some were for analyzing my posts, some were for hosting giveaways (like Gleam), and a few were ones I actually currently used. Ultimately the three apps I have left linked to my account are planoly, rewardstyle, and influenster.

In order to view which apps you've given access to your account, sign into your account in a browser. Then click on the "edit profile" button on your profile.

Click on the "authorized applications" tab.

To revoke access to an app, click on the "revoke access" button underneath the app.

4. The last step will be the hardest depending on how attached to Instagram you are. I stayed away from Instagram for 72+ hours. I logged out of my account on my laptop and my phone's browser and deleted the app from my phone. At first it was a bit weird because I'm conditioned to check Instagram as soon as I unlock for my phone but I got used to it by the end of the weekend.

I re-downloaded Instagram on my phone on Monday and signed in after 72+ hours of being off Instagram. On my first day back I posted content on my story and shared one post but didn't utilize any hashtags. Tuesday morning I shared a new photo and manually typed out a few hashtags. And hallelujah the photo is showing up in hashtag searches even when I'm not signed in! But then on Wednesday I uploaded two photos and they are shadowbanned ๐Ÿ˜“-- I'll talk more about it down below.

If you try all the steps I mentioned up above and have no luck in getting yourself unbanned, consider reaching out to Instagram. I've read multiple accounts of people reporting the problem through the app and having their photos show up in hashtags after a day or two. It doesn't hurt to try!

How am I preventing getting shadowbanned on Instagram in the future?
Like I said up above, I have no idea if any of these while have an impact on whether I will be Instagram shadowbanned or not. But it's better to be safe than sorry, right? The bottom line is you want your account to look as un-spammy as possible. You may be thinking that your Instagram habits aren't spammy but because of Instagram's wonderful, super popular, universally loved algorithm ๐Ÿ˜’  what you may think is normal, acceptable behavior is actually viewed as spammy and shady by IG.

I shared two posts yesterday afternoon on Instagram. In my first post, I edited my caption 30 minutes later to tag a brand I initially forgot about. A little bit later my photo stopped showing in the "most recent" section of 9 out of the 11 hashtags that I used. For the other 2 hashtags, my photo was still visible underneath the "top posts section." Then an hour later I uploaded a second photo with some of the same hashtags. A few minutes after sharing my photo it was visible in public hashtag searches but after 10 minutes it too was shadowbanned. It seemed like the photo again was only visible under the hashtags that it appears as a top post. Then another 10 minutes after that it started appearing again under the hashtags. I have no idea what the status of that photo is at the moment because I've pre-scheduled this post. But all the flip-flopping is driving me mad!

Edit: As of 11:20 A.M. EST, my two posts from yesterday and my one post from today are visible in public hashtag searches. Who the fuck knows how long they'll stay that way!

Anyways here's what I'm going to do to help prevent my photos getting shadowbanned in the future. Most of them I pulled from articles I linked earlier through the post.

1. I'm not going to edit my captions after I publish them. I gotta let the spelling errors go.

2. I'm going to switch up my hashtags. Usually I will use the same hashtags on most of my photos as most of them fall under the skincare and k-beauty categories over on Instagram. Instead of using the same 20+ hashtags on each photo, I'm going to use 5 of them on one, 10 of them on the other, etc.

3. I'm also no longer going to copy and paste my hashtags. Instead I'll be manually typing them out.

4. I'm going to include my hashtags in my caption as opposed to in a new comment. Props to @woodnote_song on instagram for sharing this tip with me! She tried it out yesterday and it worked for her! I'm going to give it another try today as it didn't work for me yesterday.

5. I'm not going to max out the number of hashtags I use. While using 30 hashtags is awesome for gaining exposure, it's pretty much a null point if you're shadowbanned.

6. I'm sticking to a personal account. Some people are speculating that Instagram is targeting users who utilize business accounts or are running business-like accounts. By restricting their hashtag use they may be incentivized to pay for ads. The conspiracy theorist in me is intrigued by this theory but the realist in me is like that's a stupid fucking strategy. Why would I want to give my money to a platform that is screwing me over???

7. I'm going to be less active on Instagram. Theoretically I love using Instagram-- commenting, liking, sharing stories-- it's tons of fun. But their algorithm has sucked out a lot of said fun. Because I don't want to be continuously shadowbanned I'm going to try using Instagram less. To be honest I don't think I'll be commenting or posting on my stories any less, but I will probably be liking less. I think their per hour like limit is 100 photos and there are probably some hours where I probably near that limit... it's natural for me to like most if not all the photos in my feed ¯\_(ใƒ„)_/¯

Does getting shadowbanned suck? Yes! But it's important to remember that it isn't the end of the world (maybe after you have a mini freakout about it like I did.) And it isn't even the end of your Instagram world/ career! Even if your photos aren't being visible in hashtag searches, your growth won't be completely stagnant. Your old photos will be visible in hashtag searches. Your photos can still show up on people's explore pages. You can still interact with other accounts. While I do think Instagram's response of "focus on creating quality content" was condescending and dismissive, it does hold some truth.

Have you been shadowbanned? Have you been un-shadowbanned? Do you also hate Instagram's stupid fucking algorithm with a passion of a thousand burning suns?

Also if you're offended by crass language I'm sorry that this post was littered with more cuss words than usual. What can I say, this topic gets me pretty riled up.

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