The Emotional Ramifications Of Being Hacked

A couple of days ago, at a little after six in the morning, I received an alert from Instagram, so I logged in to see what the problem was. My account — which had almost 1,000 posts — was down to 400. I used to follow roughly 1,800 people, and I was suddenly following over 3,000.

Something was horribly wrong.

I contacted Instagram right away. While I was waiting anxiously for a response, I took stock of the damage. All my most liked, most commented-on posts were gone. Okay, I thought. That sucks, and my engagement will go down.

But it was worse than that. So much worse.

Pictures of my cats had been deleted, and not just the happy, healthy babies sleeping beside me as I type this. The hacker targeted pictures of my cats who’d passed away. It was deliberate. It was brutal. It was malicious.

I sobbed my eyes out. I felt violated. I’m not a big-name blogger by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers or a makeup line. Why would someone do this? Why would someone single me out?

What had I done to make someone I’ve never met hate me this much?

Long story short: the people I spoke with went above and beyond the call to help me. I recovered all but 100 of my photos, I’m slowly unfollowing the numerous spam accounts my hacker followed, and I will forever be grateful to the wonderful people at Instagram for their help.

But what happens now?

The feelings of uneasiness remain. I double and triple-check to make sure any important photos or videos have been backed up. Every time an alert for a comment comes up, I feel a sense of dread.

Is it the hacker? Do they want to taunt me? Will they try again?

The emotional ramifications of being hacked don’t vanish overnight. You don’t recover a sense of normalcy along with your data. A 2010 report by internet security giant Norton says that hacking victims feel powerless, angry, and even cheated because they know the perpetrator will likely go unpunished.

Australia and the UK offer emotional support for cyber crime victims, but similar support is sadly lacking here in the United States. Instead of a helpful page telling me where to go, all I could find was an online directory of support groups. After doing a little digging, I came to a disheartening (though not altogether surprising) conclusion: no nationwide support group exists for cyber crime victims in America.

What are we supposed to do in the meantime? Do we suck it up and say, “Well, could’ve been worse?”

It could have been worse. I realize how lucky I am that it wasn’t a case of identity theft or a bank account hack. Everything is okay.

But I don’t feel okay.

That will take time. I’m always going to wonder who did it. Why they did it. Who hates me that much? It’s a disconcerting thought, and it’s not one I want to let myself dwell on for too long.

So, what should you do after you’ve reported your social media account as hacked?

1.) Reach out to someone. It could be your mom, your therapist, your spiritual advisor, or your best friend. You don’t have to go through it alone.

2.) Take some “me” time. Reread a favorite book. Watch your favorite movie. Go grab a coffee and sit in the park.

3.) Realize that it’s not your fault. There are a lot of jerks in the world. It’s a fact of life. It speaks volumes about their character and says nothing about yours.

4.) Take steps to protect yourself. Create a tough password and change it frequently. Never use the same password for more than one website. Update your antivirus program. Doing little things to safeguard your data can make you feel empowered.

5.) Reach out to others. Search the hashtags on Instagram. Ask around on Facebook. Being hacked is a frighteningly common occurrence these days, and we can support each other.

Drop me a message if you’ve ever been hacked. You can find me on Instagram, Collide, and now on Facebook!