Saturday, 18 March 2017

An incident with Instagram by Lu Hersey

Social media can be a helpful marketing tool, if you choose to use it that way. A means of drawing attention to new books coming out, reviews and events. It’s also a way to communicate with other writers, family and friends. But very occasionally it can backfire in a spectacular way, as I found out recently with Instagram...

Fab cake made for me by YAfictionados (cakes feature a lot on Instagram)

Unless you choose to have a private account, Instagram is a public platform – a bit like twitter, but with more pictures. Great for improving mediocre photos with its selective cropping and filter options, and for the most part, fun. It’s become an increasingly popular site for authors and book bloggers, and a social media site currently popular with nearly all teenagers.

YA event at Foyles, Bristol - writers always Instagram events...

Some writers and illustrators have a ton of followers and a zillion ‘likes’ for everything they post (look at Chris Riddell’s amazing Instagram feed and you’ll see what I mean)…although if you take a look at teen profiles like Zoella’s, the rest of us have a lot of catching up to do!
Like all social media, Instagram is another way of keeping up with what your writer friends are doing – and on a bad day, making you feel really inadequate looking at other people’s amazing book tours, fantastic book covers, new book deals, and countless foreign editions (even though you’re delighted for them!)

Social media can sometimes make you feel like this...

Anyway, as Instagram is mostly a public platform, like most children’s writers, some of my followers are kids and teenagers. The audience I write for, in fact. And therefore I’m fairly selective about the images I post.
So when my Instagram account got hacked by a spammer, my new profile pic of a much younger model with surgically enhanced breasts (and wearing very few clothes) was a bit of a worry.


It took me some time to actually find my account again. The spammer had blocked me from accessing my own photos, and it’s quite complicated getting Instagram ‘help’ to do anything remotely helpful. I had to send them a photo of myself holding a card with my email address on to prove I was a real person. It took them several days to grudgingly agree that yes, maybe I had been hacked, and let me have my account back with a slightly different name. Now I’m luwrites instead of LuWrites, because Instagram ‘help’ said someone already owned LuWrites. Duh. But I couldn’t be bothered to argue.

Having got my account back, I found my big breasted spammer had kindly started following 5000 random people on my behalf. Some of them had very dubious names like Cmidic and Luvmicok and had messaged to request nude pics...

After hastily blocking all of them (and changing my profile photo, obvs), I had to unfollow the other 5000, which took AGES. Instagram only allows you to unfollow about 100 people in one session before they freeze your account for a while – apparently to ‘protect our community’. Yeah, right. The same ‘community’ where a spammer can follow 5000 people in one go. Pffft.

Surprisingly, in the end, some good came out of it all. I ended up feeling almost sorry about unfollowing some of the 5000 people I’d never met. Quite a few of them had followed me back – though I’m surprised they didn’t wonder why I’d followed them in the first place, especially with THAT profile pic.

By the time I’d slowly waded through, I found it kind of comforting that apart from the porn spammers, the vast majority of the accounts I had to unfollow were people from across the globe, simply recording very similar things in their lives. High days and holidays, families, falling in love, cars – along with some truly spectacular cakes, and a very wide range of pets. (One guy actually appeared to own a pair of tigers and a grizzly bear!)

I ended up with a warm, fuzzy feeling of a global community and shared humanity, something hard to remember in these days of political tensions and rifts between countries.
I still follow a few of the people who followed me back. Mainly young teens I feel might be upset if I unfollowed them, and I wasn’t quite sure if they were following me before or not. After all, at its best, Instagram can be a great public space and a good way to link to others.
But if you’re a children’s writer with an Instagram account, or about to open one, I’d strongly advise making your password impregnable…it could save you a lot of time and effort.

Lu Hersey
Deep Water out now, published by Usborne
@LuWrites on twitter
luwrites on Instagram
Lu Writes on Wordpress


Hilary Hawkes said...

Poor you and what an ordeal to sort out too. Good point about passwords.

Penny Dolan said...

Wise advice so thank you, Lu! And what a lot of time to have to spend on the problem too!

LuWrites said...

Thanks both - have been promised lesson s in improving my security by Lucy Powrie.looking foarward to it!