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I’m not very good at keeping up with T4L’s social media channels but even when I put some effort into them, Instagram is usually at the bottom of the list. The service is designed primarily to showcase pretty pictures and there’s only so pretty you can make an HDMI cable look. 😀
But today I was going through some blog comments and someone mentioned a problem they were having using Repost, an app that lets you share other people’s posts, including their full attribution and caption, so I went to test it out myself.
I opened Instagram and started scrolling through my home feed looking for something repost-worthy, which usually isn’t too difficult. But the first few weren’t very interesting, but what really caught my eye was that I didn’t recognize the Instagram accounts posting them. On my personal account, I follow a wide range of accounts, but on T4L I mostly just follow science and technology-related people, publications, companies, and organizations. The ones I was seeing were from individuals, often not in English.
I went to my profile page and saw that I was following more than 500 accounts, waaay more than I knew I had followed before. Obviously I’d been hacked.
If this happens to you, or if you want to prevent it from happening, here are some steps you should take.
NOTE: Unfortunately, Instagram isn’t the only social media channel subject to hacking. The steps below should apply for other social networks as well.
- Change your password. If you log into Instagram through Facebook, change your FB password.
- Turn on two-factor authentication in the settings. This sets up a process where Instagram will send you a text message with a verification code any time you go to log in. That way even if a hacker can figure out your password, they can’t get the code because they don’t have your phone. Is it a bit of a pain? Yes. Is it a good idea anyway? Absolutely!
- Go into your Instagram and Facebook settings to see what third-party apps you’ve authorized. If there are any you don’t recognize or that you don’t need anymore, revoke their access to your account.
- If that doesn’t stop the auto-follows, you can try temporarily deactivating your account. This won’t delete your information but it will make it unavailable until you reactivate it. NOTE: I read in one article that if you do this, anyone you’ve tagged in a post will be re-notified about being tagged when you re-activate your account, so you might want to add some info to your profile or write a post about it to warn those people.
After doing all this, you now need to go in and unfollow all the accounts you don’t want. Unfortunately, Instagram forces you to do this one at a time. There are apps that advertise themselves as letting you mass delete followers, but the ones I’ve seen don’t have very good reviews so I’m not making any recommendations. If you’re aware of one that works well, please share it in the comments below.
I went the manual route and it took me about 15 minutes to go from 500+ accounts I follow back down to the 99 I actually want to follow.
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