How I Was Forced Off FaceBook (And Why I May Never Return)

If you had to make a bet on how I’d get kicked off of FaceBook, the safest way to make some money would have been in guessing I’d be reported for nudity or pornography. I would have bet on that too. Last week, however, I got kicked off and my account was disabled for something entirely different. It’s been seven days, and shows no signs of coming back, despite repeated attempts at explanation and enough government-issued ID documents to run for President three times over.

We have to go back a week to explain how this all came about. I was alerted by a girl who sent me a message that someone else was using my photos for their profile. Three different accounts under the same name had my profile photo attached to them, so I reported them for pretending to be someone they’re not. I didn’t think much more of it, until the next day, when I got a report stating that I had reported someone for pretending to be me, and that my account was being disabled. Umm, what?

That message, seen below, also instructed that if I thought it was a mistake to reply with a government-issued ID. I promptly submitted a photo of my driver’s license and waited to hear back. The next message, also below, reiterated that my account was disabled for pretending to be someone other than myself.

I responded and sent back my reply, explaining that I had been reporting someone else for using my photos, and I got the following message:

“Your account was disabled for not following the FaceBook terms. FaceBook requires everyone to list their authentic name on their account. Fake accounts and accounts created to impersonate someone or something else are not allowed. If you think your account was disabled by mistake, please file a report here… Make sure to attach a valid ID to your report. We won’t be able to process your request without it. Thanks – The FaceBook Team”

Wait. Hold up. Now they’re saying I’m not using my authentic name? If it’s not ‘Alan Bennett Ilagan’ what the hell is it? Princess Pink Feather? Merry Making Tricksie? I’ve done a lot of things on FaceBook since I joined back in 2007 or 2008. (Yes, look at all my entries since then, FaceBook police. It’s pretty substantial for a supposedly fake-named account.) I’ve posted some questionable content, I’ve had a couple of photos removed for being too risqué (though most pass FB censor muster), and I’ve pissed off more than a few people who didn’t like my views, but not once have I pretended to be anyone other than Alan Bennett Ilagan. That’s the name my parents gave me. It’s on my birth certificate, my driver’s license, my passport, my check stubs, my credit cards, my credit card bills, and all those catalogs that come in the mail. It’s the name I use on Twitter and Instagram, and it’s the name of the website you’re reading right now. But for whatever reason, FaceBook needs further proof that I’m me.

After re-sending my license, I got the next message, which, up to this point, has been the most disturbing:

Essentially they are telling me that someone submitted my driver’s license info as well, and now I have to submit ANOTHER government-issued ID. My license has only been in my hand and perhaps the hands of a police officer for a minor speeding infraction a number of years ago, but no one else has had it long enough to jot anything significant down. Hell, I don’t even get carded at bars anymore. So for FaceBook to say that someone else had provided the same information to them was upsetting to say the least.

At this point, since the only people I had sent my license to were those AT FACEBOOK, I hesitated sending another copy of a government-issued ID. And though I finally had a contact name at FaceBook, assuming Ali Khoush is a real employee of FaceBook Community Operations (if you are, hello Ali! It’s really me, Alan Bennett Ilagan!), I had a very sour taste in my mouth over the entire ordeal. FaceBook had made it clear that they would never understand me. The break-up, even if it had a chance of being patched-up, was irrevocable. We would never be the same.

In the ensuing days, however, I found that I didn’t miss FaceBook as much as I thought I might. I’ve never been one to suffer withdrawal from social media or being plugged-in. On most vacations, I set up a few pre-programmed blog posts, post those links on FB or Twitter when I think of it, but that’s basically it. I’d rather inhabit the moment and be present in the place than constantly document and be bound to a smart phone.

I also got to realize how much time I was spending on FaceBook, which required more focus and attention than Instagram or Twitter. The audience I got on FaceBook was also a small fraction of the numbers who can see my stuff on Twitter or Instagram. In other words, what was FaceBook really providing for me, other than a time drain and a brain waster?

As I write this, my account is still happily disabled, but my life is more vibrant, active and real than it’s been in years. I also have oodles of time that was apparently going into browsing and getting upset over the latest political rant or comment war. (To give you an idea of how much time it was taking up, a task that normally would have occupied at least an entire week ~ organizing and storing my winter scarves ~ took but a single evening. Yeah, that’s the kind of time we’re talking about.)

Whether it was my intention or not, I managed to quit FaceBook cold turkey, and it’s made me realize that having 4000 FaceBook friends means less than having one or two people who really matter. For years I wondered why those who weren’t on FaceBook seemed so happy. Didn’t they know what they were missing? Didn’t they feel left out? Now I know, and I’m a little happier for it too.

{Mysterious Post Script: My best guess as to why my account was disabled goes back to the person whom I originally reported for usurping my photos for his profile and setting up accounts under the name ‘Richard Helm Laurence’ from Lander, Wyoming as seen below. The only thing I can surmise is that once I reported him, he may have reported me, and somehow FaceBook believed I was the imposter. (I’m told his accounts are still up.) Like most things involving FaceBook, it is likely to remain a mystery unsolved. I do, however, remain a believer in justice.}

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