Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Facebook Account Has Been Disabled 2: Do Facebookers Dream of Farmville Sheep?

Tuesday morning July 5 dawned clear and bright on South Padre Island.  After a fun-filled 4th of July evening of food, fireworks, and friends, I reveled in the luxury of sleeping in.  When I finally stirred, I sauntered over to my laptop where I was delighted to receive the following cryptic message:

“Hi Jill,

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. Your account was disabled in error. Your account has been reactivated and you will now be able to log in.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

User Operations

That was it…that’s all I was told.  Thanks Hogan!   Hogan?  I’ve never met anyone with the name Hogan.  And, it was just signed, “Hogan” with no last name in evidence.  I wonder if Hogan is even a real person or just a virtual one, which would be kind of fitting for facebook if you think about it, wouldn’t it?  What a denouement!  I anxiously logged in to my account, which turned out to be just as I’d left it three days earlier when it was precipitously and mysteriously disabled.  What a relief!  I noticed the number of facebook credits listed had climbed to 5 from my customary 0.  No explanation of the 5 credits was forthcoming either.  I assume the credits were an amend for their error, perhaps so I could purchase something called an “unwither” on Farmville to rescue my virtual crops which had been neglected during my banishment.   As of this writing, it’s been two weeks and I’ve heard nothing else, so apparently, we may never know exactly what the aforementioned error was that caused me so much grief.

The errant disabling of my facebook account had given me some serious food for thought.  I’ve been a facebook user for almost 5 years.  Facebook has grown to great personal and cultural significance in that relatively short span of time.  I considered the myriad ways facebook had become an integral part of my day-to-day life to help me understand why I had taken the unexpected disabling of my account so hard.   There were so many!  I use it as an address book.  I use it to stay in touch with my family, which is spread all over the country.  It’s the primary way I share news, jokes and important information.  Facebook has become an easy way to make plans when I want to get together with my friends.  It’s my scrap book and photo album.  I’ve forged many new relationships through facebook and I missed my globally dispersed buddies when I couldn’t jump online as I was used to.  I even have some facebook penpals!  It was distressing to be unable to write to them and eagerly anticipate their replies while I was gone.  Facebook has become a way I pass the time when there are too few minutes to begin a new task but too many minutes to fill by just taking a few breaths before moving on.  The facebook games I enjoy have become an easily accessible source of simple relaxation and pleasure.  Posting on facebook has become the way I generally seek advice.  I remember asking whether I should replace or fix my broken washing machine as my status.  I had a wealth of helpful responses at my fingertips within an hour advising me to can the 10 year old machine and buy a new one, which I did.   Through facebook, I’ve reconnected with old friends from camp. high school and college who I never thought I would be close to again.  I am so delighted to see how much I enjoy their company and being a part of their lives again, even if the relationship is now (for the most part) “virtual”.  As an inveterate night owl, facebook has become a lovely way to chat with those I care about in other time zones while those who are geographically closer are blissfully snoozing away in the land of Nod.  When I couldn’t log onto my account, I worried that my friends might jump to negative conclusions, assuming that they had somehow earned my wrath, that I had un-friended or blocked them without the courtesy of an explanation.  I sent out several emails explaining what had transpired so no one would think I might do such an awful thing.   Their reassurances were a comfort to me.   In summary I realize that facebook adds a richness to my life that would cause me significant grief if it were permanently snatched away.  I hope the facebook team appreciates the honor and responsibility this bestows upon them.  

I am delighted that my account was restored so quickly.  From what I’d read of the experiences of others in similar situations I was very fortunate.  Perhaps facebook has streamlined their procedures for evaluating and restoring accounts.  If they have, I applaud this change.  If they haven’t, I hope they seriously consider that they themselves describe facebook as a social “utility.”  No other utility gets cut off without warning or remedy, even with just cause.   Personally and professionally, I see the importance of facebook in people’s lives growing more each day.   My clients share content from their pages in the course of their psychotherapy.  Relationships are not over until one’s relationship status has changed to “single” with much trepidation spent on making this proclamation.  Good news gets shared, emotional support is offered, laughter spreads because of jokes, videos or amusing anecdotes.  Information and advice fly through the ether to the benefit of all who receive them.  People from the far corners of the earth play games together and get to know one another.  Lives are cataloged through status updates, stories and photos.  Simple pleasure is constantly at our fingertips.   In this age of constant busy-ness, isolation and dissent, facebook is like the pub in the show “Cheers.”  It’s the place you can always visit where “everybody knows your name.”  What a treasure. 

I’m so glad to be back.   

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Your facebook account has been disabled."

I read what could arguably be the most dreaded words in the world of social networking as they flickered across my Macbook screen:

“Your facebook account has been disabled.”

After determining that this could not be explained away as a bad joke, a hack or a simple mistake, I paused and considered what despicable facebook crime I might have inadvertently committed to render me worthy of this draconian punishment from the facebook team.  I haven’t a clue.  I am a mild mannered, non-confrontational, friendly, and active facebook user.  I have a personal page, a page for my clinical psychology private practice and a page I set up and administer for the Bexar County Psychological Association as one of my responsibilities as a member of the executive committee.  My loftiest social media goal is to bring a little cheer to someone’s life because our paths crossed today.  Facebook is an ideal venue for this so I strive to be my usual pleasant, supportive, (hopefully) amusing self on my facebook pages.  I post lots of photos, quips, information and links.  I am an embarrassingly avid player of Farmville.  I think facebook should love me, not leave me!

I did some queries and discovered more than a few interesting tidbits about my predicament. 

  1. Facebook can disable your account without warning or immediate explanation.  And, without even the simple courtesy of an email alerting you to their actions.
  2. Facebook does not have a customer service phone line or live chat feature to allow you to address the problem immediately with a live person.  For a company who’s raison d’etre is connection they are surprisingly difficult to connect with when you need them.
  3. The only apparent recourse is to fill out a brief form letting them know that you think the deactivation was a mistake and then to await a reply, which generally takes at least 3 days and by some reports has dragged on for weeks.
  4. Facebook appears to have the right to with hold information about why they disabled your account if they believe you have violated their rules, rights and responsibilities agreement.  The irony is I’ve actually read this document.  However, there seems to be a pretty wide margin of error in how these rules, rights and responsibilities might be interpreted by the masters of the facebook realm.
  5. There seems to be no ultimate court of law or procedure for appeal so if you are barred they can decide the decision is final with no recourse for remedy.
  6. Other writers discoursing on the this topic advise that if you are very VERY nice, apologetic and promise never ever EVER to commit the same crime, oops I mean inadvertent violation, again it might help you get your page back.  If you get upset, argue too loudly, cause problems or make waves of any kind, it seems to reduce the likelihood they will restore you to full facebook citizenship, so I blog today with some trepidation. Could I be branded a rabble-rouser or trouble-maker unfit for the genteel confines of the facebook community? 
  7. If you don’t get your account reactivated you are not entitled to any of your page content, pictures or games because they aren’t required to give them back to you.
  8. If they don’t agree to reverse their decision they can bar you from facebook FOREVER.  If you set up a new page with a different email address, facebooks’s face recognition and data mining software can find you and disable that account too.  It is also against facebook’s rules to have two accounts or misrepresent yourself as someone you aren’t (I'm not guilty on either count).  This means that as soon as they discover your new account you were guilty before you even got out of the gate.  
  9. If that happens, you will be excommunicated from the ranks of the social media elite and forced back to the primordial slime to play your games with actual tangible objects like playing cards or jacks or tiddly winks. You will have to re-cultivate the fine art of communicating with people using that quaint device called a telephone, old fashioned paper and ink, email (that’s SO 20th century) or even (gasp, gasp) face to face.  And, of course, there’s still twitter, right?

I know many readers will consider this to be a trivial matter easily resolved.  If this might be you, click on the following link for a stark reality check

to read the poignant implorations of other frustrated deactivated facebook users.  I would like to take this opportunity to mention that backing up your facebook page is an excellent idea.  However the necessity of having to back up my facebook page had never occurred to me at all.  Aren’t we constantly being warned that anything posted on facebook is permanent and destined for perpetual storage on multiple servers to embarrass our future selves when its most inconvenient?  This represents yet another jarring example of better living through technology and the hard lessons it can teach.  Make sure all of your personal information including your friends list and their contact data, message texts and photos are stored someplace besides facebook.  Facebook may appear ubiquitous but it seems to be a privilege rather than a right so unlike Motel 6 the light will not always be left on for you.  Do a google search and you will get multiple hits for tips on how to back up your page and do it NOW.

Will my facebook privileges be restored?  Will I be released from facebook purgatory?  Only time will tell.  This unexpected hiatus will be extended by the fact that it is a three-day weekend and no serious business gets accomplished in America on holiday weekends.  Plus, I am at the beach on vacation with my lovely sister, her son, my husband and my kids.

Wait a minute!  I am at the beach with my family… who needs facebook at a time like this anyway?  The surf beckons.  The air is redolent with the fresh scent of sand and sea and sunshine.  I hear the gulls cry in the distance.  There is laughter on the beach.    I shut down my computer and I go.