How bad usability locked me out of my Instagram account

A short story and rant about an inattentive user (me), bad usability, worse customer service and loosing part of your online presence.

The background story

I really liked Instagram and the idea of mobile photography, sharing and quick snaps (not so much the overuse of filters back then). Approximately one year after its inception I boarded the hype train and started to post irregular photos. 

This euphoria quickly cooled down as Facebook announced the acquisition of Instagram. I’m no fan of Facebook and their views on privacy. So I stopped using Instagram and my account laid idle for the past four years. 

A new hope 

Fast forward to today. I have been posting my photos on my own site for maximum flexibility and ownership since then. Some are cross posted to Twitter anyway and so I thought I could give Instagram another shot. Because that’s where the community is at, the comments, feedback and exposure. I rarely get any reaction to the stuff I post on my site and that’s now surprise: why write an email or tweet if on other platforms (Instagram) you can just click on the heart; too much of a hassle.

These thoughts were also fueled by the fact that I got myself a used full-frame compact camera. Having a smaller camera with me (aside from really good smartphone cameras) and the ability to load the picture onto the smartphone on the go, great editing apps like Snapseed and VSCO made me want to try Instagram again. 

Denied 

So I just have to log back into my account and start posting, right? Well not exactly. Apparently over the last years some „suspicious activity“ was logged on my account (although no one got access or posted something on behalf of my name). That’s why Instagram sent me a recovery mail with an activation code and a link. So far so good. 

I entered the code in the provided field and it told me that it’s expired. Half an hour is too long to keep the code alive, why?
No problem – I thought – I just use the link to activate my account again. Everybody knows these links from newsletters, other countless sites that you need to activate your account on. That’s where the fuck up happened. I should have read the mail in more detail. 

In contrary to known and widely used UX principles, Instagram uses this link to remove your email from the associated account. With no prompt, confirmation or possibility to undo. Fuck you.
Now I’m standing here, removed my email from my account. Which is locked. And I can’t receive any activation mails, because … well … my fucking email address got removed. 

Support is non existent in the Instagram universe. I managed to find email addresses, but no response. Same goes for mentions on Twitter. It goes: either you find a solution in our help section or you can fuck right off.
My nice @-handle is lost in the digital nirvana and I can’t get it back. I don’t even know if I want a new account or carry on with the status quo. 

If you are in digital product design: please don’t use common patterns for destructive stuff or at least provide a way to recover from that (undo). And I will read my emails in greater detail.