Give Me Back My Sunsets!

It’s a weird sensation, feeling the ground of your digital life crumble beneath your feet because of an algorithm’s mistake. This is the story of how a simple error on a social media platform threatened to turn my existence upside down without warning.

Imagine logging off for the evening only to discover upon your return that your online presence has been wiped out. You try to log back in, thinking it’s a minor glitch, but are met with a jarring notice: your account has been suspended. Confusion turns to panic as you scramble to understand why, only to find out you’ve been accused of something so heinous, so contrary to your true character, it’s laughable—at least it would be if the consequences weren’t so dire.

The suspension notice came with a timer: appeal within 180 days or face permanent deletion. My initial belief was it had been a mistake, perhaps a false flag for spam after an unusually active day on my account. But as time ticked away, a more ominous message arrived, declaring my account had been disabled with no chance for appeal. “We disabled your account,” it read, leaving no room for argument. My online identity, friendships, and memories stored in posts and photos were on the brink of vanishing.

As the reality set in, I realized the severity of the accusation. A label, so far removed from who I am, threatened not just my online world but had real-world implications. Meta, the parent company of Instagram, noted that they would report my case to the appropriate authorities. At that moment, the digital platform felt like a judge, jury, and executioner with a single click.

In desperation, I reached out to every contact I had within the company, hoping for a miracle. The sight of my accounts and those linked to me disappearing as if I never existed online was surreal. My feed, a simple collection of sunsets and landscapes far from controversial, seemingly posed a threat. Something went terribly wrong in the digital ether, but pinpoint details were as elusive as my reinstated account.

Through a stroke of luck and perhaps some behind-the-scenes advocacy, I saw a glimmer of hope. An email notification broke the silence of my suspension; my account was to be restored. But the victory was hollow. No explanation was provided, only a brief apology for the error with no assurance it wouldn’t happen again.

The ordeal toppled my faith in the platform. Such a cavalier approach to moderating content, where algorithms wield the power to erase identities without recourse or clear reason, is deeply flawed. While I’m grateful to have my account back, the scars of this experience serve as a stark reminder of the fragility of our digital existence.

My story is not unique. Many have faced similar bans, with avenues for appeal as elusive as the reasoning behind the suspension. It highlights a broader issue within digital governance—the balance between safeguarding communities and respecting individual rights is precariously skewed.

As I navigate my restored digital life with trepidation, my perspective has shifted. The platform that once felt like a home for my memories now feels like a borrowed space, where the welcome mat can be pulled without notice. It’s a chilling reminder of the power and fallibility of the algorithms that govern our online worlds.

The truth is, this could happen to anyone. And when it does, the silence from the other side is deafening. We deserve better. Better transparency, better processes for appeal, and a better understanding of how such impactful decisions are made. Until then, the sunsets I share are tinged with the awareness that they, too, could disappear into the digital night without a trace.

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