Why we can’t be friends (Social media justice: part 2)

It’s official.

I’m now an outcast from modern society, a pariah of current culture, a man without a profile.

I’ve been permanently banned from Facebook.

And I’m okay with that.

In my last post, I shared how I received notice from Facebook that my account was suspended, for reasons that were a mystery to me. I was given 30 days to appeal, a process that must begin with me uploading my state ID to Facebook. This is something I would not do.

Since then, things have gotten more interesting, in an alarming sort of way.

I began to receive emailed receipts for ads placed on Facebook. There were two simple reasons why I could not have placed these ads:

  1. I had been locked out of my account for more than three weeks.
  2. The descriptions of the ads were in a language I don’t understand. (In fact, I can’t even tell what language it is.)

This shed some light on the situation. It appears that somebody in a foreign land had hijacked my account and done something with it to get me expelled from the platform. The brilliant minds at Facebook swung into action and barred the true owner of the account while apparently allowing the pirates to access the account freely and, as a bonus perk, to also run fraudulent ads on it. They weren’t getting any ad revenue from the rightful owner, so why not?

I found generic email addresses for Facebook departments online. I also found one reference to a phone number, but this was explained as the number that tells you not to try calling Facebook when you dial it. It seems that Facebook wants to hear from you in only one way, and that is the way that begins with you giving them more personal data about yourself. This personal data could easily end up in the hands of the new owners of your account, but even if it doesn’t, the prying eyes of Facebook would still have it.

I sent emails to all the Facebook addresses I found. In them, I explained the situation. I did not ask for my account to be reinstated. Now, I was sure I wanted it deleted, and the sooner the better. That was my best hope for making it useless to criminals. I don’t expect that any of the emails were ever read, but you’ve got to try.

I tried to log into my account again. Not surprisingly, I still couldn’t. When I click the button to close the app, I was warned that I had only one day left to appeal before my account was permanently disabled. I’m sure this was meant as some sort of threat, but I saw it as my only hope. I hoped it wasn’t an idle threat.

I’ve stopped getting the ad receipts. My account is beyond the appeal period. If that’s the end of it, I’m grateful to be done with Facebook. My only regret is that last Christmas I bought my boys an Oculus VR headset. It ran off my Facebook account; Oculus has alerted me that we will lose all the games we bought for it. The consolation is it wasn’t a huge hit with the boys and we didn’t spend a ton on games. And when I think back, it wouldn’t be the first time money spent on gifts for the kids was wasted.

In conclusion, I will not be accepting any more Facebook friends.

I’ve no more friends to play with.

Social media justice

It began with an email. I thought it was a scam so I ignored it.

I could not have violated Facebook’s community standards. I hadn’t posted anything in months. Certainly, silence could not be against community standards.

Out of curiosity, I clicked to open the Facebook app. Maybe silence is against community standards.

It was true. My Facebook account had been suspended, just as the mysterious email had foretold.

I went back to the email: I had 30 days to appeal the suspension. After that my account would be deleted permanently.

Let’s see how this works, I thought, switching back to the app. I clicked the button to appeal. The app wanted my phone number. I was a little reluctant, but I finally decided I could offer that much to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The next screen asked me to upload a photo of my ID (e.g. license, passport, etc.).

Whoa. My identity is pretty important to me, and when it comes right down to it, Facebook is not. I started becoming disillusioned with FB the moment after I originally signed up. That disillusionment has grown over the years, as FB has become a tool to turn my deepest thoughts and shallowest curiosities into advertising to be thrown back into my face. Then there’s the issue of a corporation passing judgment on whose ideas are valid and whose aren’t.

Yes, there is a pleasant side to FB, and I do look at it sometimes to see what my friends are up to, and to understand what type of embarrassing secrets people now willingly share with the world in return for validation or sympathy.

I figure there are about 10 days left until I get deleted from the official registry of world people, and I think I’m OK with that. I would like to know what standard I violated by doing nothing (maybe I didn’t reach my quota of “Likes” in the past decade – I couldn’t argue with that), but I think I can live not knowing.

Here’s the interesting part.

Since my account got suspended, I have been receiving FB notifications like never before. Suddenly, I’m getting them in my email, and my entire phone screen is filled with them. I rarely got notifications when I was an upstanding citizen. Weird, huh?

It’s almost like FB is trying hard to lure me back. “Look at all this fun stuff you’re missing by not uploading your official state ID to us!”

They really want me to upload that ID. I’m sure it’s for my own good.

Even so, I think I’ll play out this game of chicken to the end. Maybe they’ll realize I’m calling their bluff and drop the charges. Probably not, in which case I might have to learn to present myself as a flesh and blood person again. I wonder if I’m up to it.

Waiting to hear if my profile will be released or executed.

Our statistics aren’t feeling well

The boys have been back to in-person schooling for more than a month now, and the world hasn’t ended. To hear them complain about having to change out of their pajamas in the morning, you might think it has, but not really.

They’ve had some kids in their classes test positive for COVID. The affected kids stay out for a week or so, then come back, and life goes on. It seems like a normal school year, except that all the students look like they’re about to rob a train.

With everything going along so near normal, you might be surprised to learn that our schools have suffered multiple outbreaks of COVID. That’s because, up until last week, our state defined an outbreak as two positive cases.

Little did I know that my family has been suffering outbreaks of all sorts of childhood diseases for the past 10 years. I always thought of it as just a couple of kids with the pukes, but according to the state health department, it was an outbreak of vomit. It was probably even newsworthy, had I known to call the papers.

There’s probably a vomit heat map buried within the health department web site, with a big, red circle centered over my house.

“There’s puke everywhere!”

I’m tempted to write a biological thriller, titled Outbreak, in which a total of two people come down with a mysterious illness. I haven’t settled on the catalyst for this spine-tingling plot, but I’m leaning toward the sharing of an expired carton of potato salad.

Now, the state has announced a change in this criterion of an outbreak to three positive cases. I give them credit for reducing the ridiculousness of their definition by a whopping 50%. That kind of swift improvement is difficult to achieve in government work.

The reasons for this change are murky, but the obvious conclusion is that outbreaks have become less politically useful to the state than they used to be. In the US, COVID statistics have become an interstate competition. Perhaps, our outbreak totals began to look awkward in comparison to our competitor states, until someone at the big meeting raised his hand and said, “Maybe we should find a way to have fewer outbreaks.” Give that man a raise.

So now we’ll have fewer school outbreaks. As a parent, that’s a huge relief to me. I’m proud to live in a state that is taking such strong measures to defeat this pandemic.

But as I was saying, the kids are back at school. The younger ones complain, but I think there is a secret part inside them that is happy to be back among their friends, despite the school lunches, which are reported to have taken a turn for the worse.

The older one doesn’t complain. He’s in 8th grade now, and girls are starting to become important. And as every schoolboy (who has spent a year of schooling online) knows, girls are much more intriguing in person than they are on Zoom.

It’s suddenly Smokey all through the house

We didn’t seek a cat.

For the last five years, our only pets have been a pair of aquatic turtles, and except for sharing our home with a pair of turtles, I’ve been fine with that.

I didn’t need a new pet.

The universe thought differently.

The cat belonged to the neighbors. When they couldn’t keep him, the universe, with a little coaxing from our children, sent him across the street to us.

At first, it was easy to accept the will of the universe. The cat preferred to be outdoors. He slept, ate, and conducted all his other animal business outside. This was his main selling point. Imagine having a pet—a mammalian pet at that—without the sheen of hair on the furniture, without the odors, without the mess! My wife imagined it with gusto, and the picture her mind painted was a heavenly masterpiece of hygienic pet ownership.

With all the angels singing above our heads, how could I object?

Alexa, the electronic matron who watches our every move and tells us what to do and which products we should order right now from Amazon.com, told us to name him Smokey. We obediently named him that, because we didn’t want the CIA, or the even more powerful Amazon.com, to put us on the naughty list.

Giving us our order for the day

I don’t know for sure if it were Smokey or the universe that pulled the old bait and switch. Possibly, it was my wife.

It must have been the universe that sent the Yellow Jacket to investigate Smokey’s outdoor food bowl. It was definitely my wife who immediately insisted that Smokey’s food bowl be moved inside the house, where nasty insects couldn’t tamper with his kibble.

And then Smokey came regularly inside the house. The next time I saw him, he was resting on a chair in the back room.

The dominoes had begun to fall. With Taliban-like speed, he conquered the rest of the house. The master bedroom fell to him within days. I found him curled up beside my wife one night. I gently explained to him that it was only a two-person bed. He gave me that indifferent cat blink that says things like: “Yes. And there are already two people in it.”

The goalposts have been moved on me. The enticements about having an outdoor cat are long gone. My wife no longer goes to bed without calling Smokey inside. He has made a habit of sleeping with us, despite the balmy outdoor nights he once claimed to adore.

My wife now puts a cat sheet over the comforter. Smokey begins his naps on this, but in the midst of his air-conditioned sleepy raptures, he often stretches himself onto the bare comforter. You can tell by the sheen of cat hair.

He’s a nice cat though, and he still does his dirty work outside. Everyone’s happy about that, except Alexa, who’s burning up with the knowledge of where we can scoop up great deals on litter accessories.