At the insistence of friends and at Facebook’s direction, I have sent an appeal to the tech giant including copies of my passport, cards bearing my name and images of a cheque for good measure.
My sister-in-law is one of the most unique people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. She’s a methodical go-getter. By the time she was 18 she had her life plan charted and has kept on course without much deviation. At 25 she had purchased her own home. She’s an excellent educator and has the kind of plucky resolve that prevents you from questioning her choices in the first place. There is a long list of things that makes her exceptional – or peculiar – in my view, but thing that has always stood out to me: She has managed to get this far into a new century with virtually no digital footprint. She’s never had a Facebook account (or any social media) and could never been persuaded to get one. She doesn’t permit pictures of herself to be posted on the Internet. As far as I know, she still uses her Hotmail account.
And 12+ years down the line, the behavior I deemed stubborn and anti-social is something I have come to envy. My sister-in-law had the foresight to save herself from the inconvenience and trauma that I am experiencing today.
I have a love-loathe relationship with Facebook dating back many years. The app – once a convenient novelty – has become an ineradicable part of modern life. I saw back in 2010 that I had developed an uncomfortable dependency on Facebook , one so deep that I could not see life without it. Facebook has become more than just a meeting place for friends to casually catch up. It’s where many of us catch breaking news; where we advertise and promote enterprise; it’s therapy for some people. No matter what definition or value Facebook holds for you, it’s a tremendous time suck at the end of the day. There have been numerous studies that reveal how many hours in a week the average person wastes on Facebook, and the numbers are not encouraging.
I realized in the middle of the year that my waking, and often most productive hours were spent scrolling on the app. I put a wish into the Universe to find a way to help me reduce the time I spent on the app. My previous attempts at leaving were shut down by the emotional blackmail Facebook subjects you to whenever you go through the deactivate process, and by dear friends who have pleaded with me not to leave, but to find a way to control how much time I spend in that environment. (For me, this was almost impossible to do. There’s always one more B*tch I’m a Cow video to watch, always one more insane thread to follow.) Welp, as my friend Bessie once said: From your lips to God’s ears. Not only did the Lord reduce my time on Facebook, He eliminated access to it completely. Talk about overflow anointing.
It would be dishonest of me if I were to say it was not a shock to discover that the social media giant had disabled my account without warning or as of today, explanation. Like many of my peers, I use Facebook to curate my life and experiences. It has served as my digital archive, a risky indulgence that prophetess Dara Mathis once warned about many years ago. If I had heeded her admonishments, I wouldn’t be in the emotional quandary that I find myself in now, which fall under the following categories:
Overall, I am grateful that I have been liberated from the tyranny of Facebook. Listening to people repeat the same circular arguments, witnessing the same sorts of fights and ad hominem attacks and general lack of resolution to any real problems was a weight on my soul. I don’t have to explain that I didn’t read your 25-paragraph rant against the eucalyptus industry because I’d muted your account in 2013. I can’t be held accountable and more importantly – I don’t have to be subjected to that sort of nonsense anymore. There’s an emancipating affect to that.
I have lost a number of dear friends in the 12 years I’ve been on Facebook, friends who have never had their accounts deactivated. It may seem macabre, but occasionally, I visit their pages or go back to direct messages that we shared with one another. I also have albums with pictures that I don’t have stored anywhere else: pictures of my beloved grandmother who passed away 6 years ago, spontaneously taken videos of the kids doing something noteworthy, precious moments that I’d forgotten and would be reminded of when the /memories notification popped up in the early hours of the morning. Those moments – and memories – are now lost to me forever, unless someone at the organization grows a heart. After being cited “safety and security reasons” I have asked that I be allowed to download my archived images, but have yet to receive a response.
As I understand it, Facebook regularly deactivates accounts without warning or explanation. Famous people like Roger Ebert and Joel Comm join the host of people who’ve had their accounts arbitrarily deleted by the tech company. However unlike we plebeians, the power, access and influence they wield are persuasive tools in getting the company to restore access. My only recourse to getting reunited with the precious pictures of my grandmother is to become rich and famous…someone worthy of the Facebook team’s respect. You and I reading this are not respected human beings to Facebook. We – and the content we provide – are a commodity…like glossy legs at Ladies Night.
Initially, I thought that my banning was as a result of a heated discussion I’d had with an unsavory group of women on a group, which will remain unnamed. My last comment to them was that they were “the worst of Black womanhood personified”. 30 minutes later, my account was disabled. I figured that a vindictive member of the group had reported me for hate speech, and since Facebook is very much like a beat cop – shooting Black victims first and asking questions later – I deduced that to be the cause.
Friends who shared that indignation sent me articles and messages of support, asking me what they could do to get my account restored. (Nothing.) A few sent me articles with advice on action that I might take. In all that chatter, I discovered something interesting…and disturbing. My account was not the only one to be affected in that time frame, as noted by several people on this forum.
A day later, I discovered that 50 million accounts had been hacked. It’s very possible that mine had been one of them. This does nothing to bolster my confidence.
Between 2013 and 2015, Cambridge Analytica harvested profile data from millions of Facebook users, without those users’ permission, and used that data to build a massive targeted marketing database based on each user’s individual likes and interests.
In a March, 2018 article, Vox calls this invasion a ‘wake-up call’ rather than a ‘hack’.
As I recall this news now, I also recall my lackadaisical attitude towards its reporting. I regret that cavalier response now. Had I had the foresight and began downloading and purging my account of precious information, I might not be in this predicament now.
I urge all of you reading to back up your treasured information in files or a personal server somewhere far, far away from the long reach of Facebook.
As for me, I’m not eager to rejoin the network. Even if they restore my account, it’s very likely that I will permanently delete it once I get the data that I need off of it. More importantly, Facebook’s wonky algorithm has (or had) rendered my feed dull and uninteresting. I was getting the same non-news from the same people and missing important milestones, or not discovering it until weeks later. Annoying. My hope is that Facebook does not bring any of its negative antics to Instagram, which they now own. The world doesn’t need that kind of stain on this beauty.
Have you had your social media accounts disabled? Did you deserve it or were you an innocent like me? Come, confess your sins! 😉