What Do You Do When All Your Instagram Photos Disappear?

From that time the cat wouldn’t stop attacking its reflection in the mirror, to the gargantuan bacon cheeseburger you ate last night, Instagram users post all kinds of memories on the photo-sharing site. So when Consumerist reader Dylan was suddenly faced with losing all his pictures, he was understandably upset.

Dylan wrote to Consumerist recently, saying he’d temporarily deactivated his Instagram profile. According to Instagram, doing so means “your account and your photos, comments and likes will be hidden, but not deleted, until you reactivate it by logging back in.”

Yet when Dylan reactivated his account a few hours later, his 100+ photos were not restored. He said he tried everything Instagram told him to: he used the “Report A Problem” option as well as the “Send Feedback” option within the app, and sent Instagram staff direct messages as well after finding staff names online. He couldn’t find an email address or other way to contact customer support.

“No dice,” he said when emailing Consumerist about his ordeal. “I need my photos back; one post includes photos from the 1950s,” he added.

When we reached out to Instagram, a representative for the company promised to look into Dylan’s situation. Soon after, he reported that his account’s photos had finally been restored, writing, “They’re back!”

Given that Dylan had tried all available methods for resolving the issue — and since “getting the media to contact Instagram on your behalf” is not an efficient avenue for resolution — we asked Instagram what exactly someone in Dylan’s situation should have done.

The Facebook-owned site’s response was cryptic and borderline off-topic, saying only that “a user can temporarily disable his/her account indefinitely, until the user reactivates. At this time media will be restored. This is a different process than when a user initiates an account deletion.”

Okay great, but that in no way answers the question. It’s like asking the cable company how to properly file a billing dispute and have them tell you that you can either suspend your account for a few months or cancel it. Helpful information, but not really relevant.

And so, in the interest of trying to get something that is of actual use to Instagram users, we’ve asked Instagram to clarify what a user is supposed to do if they end up in a situation like Dylan’s. If the company responds, we’ll update this post.

UPDATE: An Instagram representative wrote that “we apologize for the frustrating experience” that Dylan had, and that it was ” due to a bug and was an isolated incident.”

Still, the only information that she provided in a subsequent reply was a link to Instagram’s help center, and the company’s spiel: the Instagram global team reviews reports 24/7, and “every report is triaged” — with security issues and threats of harm taking first priority — and then individually investigated. Reports are normally answered or actioned within 24-72 hours, she noted… which was not the case for Dylan.

In any case, it’s always a good idea to keep a copy of any Instagram photos you treasure either on your phone or somewhere in the cloud, so you can access them even if the social media app acts up.