“All I can say is thank you.” An open letter to the hacker who stole my Instagram account.
There is a lot of talk recently about whether it is appropriate to post photos of your children online - and with good reason. I just read an article about this next generation of young people who grew up being photographed, filtered, filmed, photoshopped and hash tagged by their parents, and now that they are grown up, they are feeling exposed, exploited and humiliated by what’s been posted online without their consent. There was even one girl who has estranged herself by her mum because of her constant posting images of her daughter during her childhood.
As a new mum, I too fell down that rabbit hole of innocently sharing pictures of my newborns as they transitioned into toddlerdom. Why would you not share pics of your children, especially if you waited a long time to become a mother?
However, I have heard horror stories of people downloading photos other peoples’ children and posting on their socials claiming them as their own. There was one episode on Dr Phil where one mum confronted a woman for posting photos of the mum’s kids on her socials saying they were hers. It was one of those twisted situations where I tried to see the issue from both sides where I felt like saying to the mother “well, it’s your fault for parading your children on Instagram!”
Yet, when it’s your own children, it’s a totally different story.
One day, I was scrolling through my Instagram account and I got a message from someone who was posing as one of my “friends”, asking me to vote for them for a body building competition. Because I knew this person was already into fitness, I just assumed it was them, so after clicking on a link and giving them a code that they sent via sms, I suddenly realised that I couldn’t access my account anymore.
For the next few hours, I desperately tried to stop this hacker from stealing my account, along with my photos and videos that I had archived from the last 8 years, but it was too late. Suddenly friends started contacting me, asking if I was sending them messages asking for money or offering a chance to invest in some money making scheme. I sent messages to Instagram, asking them to take down my account and to help me retrieve it, but the damage was done, and so for the next 24 hours, I was sobbing profusely while posting to my other socials asking my friends to unfollow my old Insta.
I don’t consider myself as one of those mums who likes to take happy snaps of every activity my child does, but there were quite a few milestones that I captured on my old Insta: pictures of my children on the first day they were born, 1st birthdays and various “firsts”, not to mention the odd cute pic of them eating their breakfast with Vegemite on their face. We even had a friend who refused to show pics of her son, and the only photos we saw of him was when he had his back facing the camera, which at the time I thought was a bit over the top.
It is hard for me to put into words the fact that somewhere in the internet abyss photos of my kids are circulating and I can’t do anything about it. To think who would access those images and what they would do with them makes my blood run cold, however despite the worst case scenarios, I have tried to learn from this experience and be a bit more wise about sharing personal content on the web. This is why I’ve decided to write an open letter to my hacker to help articulate my feelings and what I’ve learnt along the way.
To the “person” who hacked my Instagram account along with various images and videos within the last 8 years of my life that you stole within seconds.
To say that I felt violated is an understatement. I don’t know what your motivations were, whether it was to reach other naive suckers like myself or create fake profiles of me and my children, but I pity the extent that people like you go to gain whatever information you can get to make money. I can go on for days venting and telling what I really think of you, but that’s only going to make me more bitter, however I know there have been people who have been worse off than me losing thousands and thousands of dollars falling victim to various online scams, and it’s not going to get any easier if we let down our guard, even for one second.
Which is why all I can really say is - thank you. You have shown me what it really means to live truely in the moment without having to capture every act through a lens. You have encouraged me to be more wise in what I decide to share online, and for that, I have decided not to post anymore photos of my children, at least until they get to an age where I can ask for their permission. If I want to share moments with immediate family and friends, then I can set up a private online group such as Messenger or WhatsApp knowing full well that those people in my circle of trust would never post anything on their socials - at least not without my consent.
You have also made me realise that whether we do this unconsciously or not, we should never let children be part of our online “brand”. When I gave birth to my son, I posted a photo of him online, and I automatically received a message from an influencer, asking if I could DM her a photo of my baby so she could post it onto her Insta, and in return I would get some free baby products. I’m sorry but my baby is no-one’s brand: not hers, not mine and definitely not yours! Children should not be viewed as commodities. They are a unique creation who will one day form their own identity rather than inherit or become attached to someone else’s.
Not all parents will have the same beliefs as mine or may not think it’s such a big deal to post a photo of their children as a symbol of their pride and joy, but the next time you decide to target another parent’s social media account, have a real long think about how that mum or dad might feel if someone were to use images of their children for their own selfish gain. If you had any moral compass, you would at least try to find some other form of income to get by, but then again, I don’t know you or your situation.
And to all of the parents out there, make sure all of your privacy settings are up to date and ask yourself, who is really looking at your online profile. The last thing you want to see is your child finding an image of themselves (at any age) being used for immoral purposes because once it’s out there, it’s out there - and it’s not something that can be easily filtered or photoshopped.
For more information about online safely, visit thinkuknow.org.au