As I write this, I’m going on three weeks since my OG Facebook account was closed down.
I say “OG” because I was one of the earlier adopters of the platform back in 2006, when it was still only open to university students (in fact, my original login is my campus email address).
It seems like the dumbest, most inconsequential thing to dwell on at this time, especially given my (current) limited mental bandwidth to deal with things like paying rent during a pandemic as a freelancer, the pandemic itself, the very real threat of authoritarian takeover Stateside (being next door to the U.S, it’s not exactly a faraway issue). However, this First World Problem carries with it some surprising aspects.
First, what happened?
I was drafted as an admin on a New Age group on Facebook by a colleague of mine with whom I have partnered to develop a book. As I was (and still am) a strong believer in the “meat and potatoes”, more academically-grounded flavour of spirituality that this group was about, I didn’t mind, and set about doing all the things that group admins do: flagging posts that went against our standards, watching for spammers, and the like.
Sometime during the holiday break (and I can only speculate for reasons you’ll learn soon enough), the group was likely overrun by several spammers or controversial posts, possibly some bots, and around that time was when Facebook decided to shut the group down.
Unfortunately for the admins, Facebook also disabled our personal accounts. I woke up one morning to find that my Messenger had been signed out and that I could not log back into Facebook. Using the options to appeal the decision, I enclosed my ID and clicked send. I received a message back saying words to the effect that my account had been disabled for terms violations and that “the decision cannot be reversed”.
So…here’s what I’ve lost:
- Over 14 years of pictures, which I had foolishly thought were safe to store on Facebook instead of my own computer or cloud storage. These included the last few days of my old cat Benton, some of the great times from my hangouts with friends in the prime of our twenties, photos from my gala book launch party in 2013 for my first novel, and images from my honeymoon to Cancun with my ex-wife (which, yeah, I wouldn’t otherwise care about if they didn’t include our day trip to Chichen Itza, a bucket list item of mine).
- Disconnections from several amazing online communities, including a freelance support group that was not only a source of networking and revenue, but helped me meet some amazing new friends around the world, freelancers all (just like me).
- Conversation transcripts with my friends, including all the files, funny voice messages, and deep, life changing chats.
- Connection with my over 700 contacts, most of whom probably now think I unfriended and blocked them.
I’ve lost a familiar part of my daily experience. Facebook was usually on in the background of my computer while I work, where I can watch for notifications of messages from friends, comments on my political or pop culture posts, and — especially important during these pandemic lockdowns — a feeling that I am still connected with the people I care about.
Now, Facebook hasn’t been without its problems. It was a source of stress and a trigger for anxiety. It was taking me away from work and distorting the world around me. I would get caught up in stupid conversations and arguments that left all of us a little less well off than when we started talking.
For this reason, I had been musing aloud for several months prior to December about shutting the whole works down. I didn’t because I had that 14 year history with it, those years of cumulative experiences and photos.
With my first account disabled and slated for deletion after 30 days, I decided to open a second one to reconnect, only to find that this, too, isn’t allowed by the Terms and I had that account locked before too long.
In the end, I guess, I got what I wanted: no more Facebook, with all the baggage that it carries.
Here’s what’s infuriating about this. The way I know it was my membership in that particular group that did me in is because the other admins all had the same thing happen to them. We each rejoined the platform with new accounts and found each other, sharing what happened.
Further, Facebook never told me exactly what I did wrong, but a good friend of mine screencapped her Messenger window with a notice from Facebook saying I was no longer able to respond as I had been “suspended due to violations of spam policy” (or words to that effect, I don’t have the screencap handy to reference as I write this). That’s how I came to surmise it was a spam issue that did us all in.
Frankly, this is bullshit. What did my personal account have to do with any of that?
Posting to my other longstanding social media platform, Twitter, I found myself getting responses to the #facebookdisabledme tag. Something like two dozen other users reported having their accounts arbitrarily closed down for one violation or another with no chance of appeal.
One of them told me that Facebook now has AI algorithms responsible for managing reports and suspending accounts, as well as appeals: even if you do get an appeal, it’s not necessarily being looked at by a human, at least not right away.
In any case, as a long shot, I sent an email to Facebook Support, but as of this writing, haven’t received a reply yet. I doubt that I will.
I might return to the platform, albeit in disguise, just to use some of the more locally-based trading and buy and sell groups, but who knows if that will be allowed?
I don’t know. It’s weird to grieve a social media platform, but this is a particularly absurdist epoch in which we live, so I guess…why not?
All I know is that I feel peculiarly and somewhat inappropriately disconnected from my friends and this hasn’t helped my sense of isolation during the lockdown.
Anyway, time for me to get back to work. As morning pages go, I guess I needed to get this out of my system.
Jody Aberdeen is an author, ghostwriter, foodie, podcaster, and book writing coach. He lives in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebo- oh wait, nevermind.