Two Months in the Facebook Hellhole
WARNING: Philip K. Dick spoilers. If you don’t want to read them, you probably ought to stop reading here.
You may have noticed that I have not been present much of late on Facebook.
Enforcing Our Community Standards — We believe in giving people a voice, but we also want everyone using Facebook to feel safe. It’s why we have Community Standards and remove anything that violates them, including hate speech that attacks or dehumanizes others.
I guess being governed by robots with awesome powers and no appeal is making me feel “safe”? No.
I was NOT in Facebook jail. No: I experienced something much darker, which almost convinced me to roll up the writing tent and pack it away for the foreseeable future.
There is a very good and very ugly reason for this. I’ve been locked in Facebook limbo, stuck in an infinite do-loop, and lost in a Kafkaesque nightmare of our possible future. Let’s back up …
I had spent the better part of a year putting together a book. A book that I decided should not be published at present. And I went to work on something else, the beginning of a long project to begin to rescue my fiction from multiple sources and put it into collection form at least. And I thought I would begin with “Nine of Hart’s” — a chapbook I originally published in the early ’90s as a sampler for agents and contacts at the American Booksellers’ Convention at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It encompassed, in short form, the very best stuff I’d done in my 42 years as a professional writer.
I took out the dated stuff, added new stuff, a spiffy new intro and found out that Windows and Amazon had conspired to make my Mobipocket program useless, so I had to completely RELEARN how to create Kindle books, and then reacquire Microsoft Word, since Amazon’s new Kindle engine presupposes it.
(Yes, I could have continued to use Libre Office, but I felt that Word was necessary, and I managed to acquire a 2013 copy for $10 by careful shopping online.)
And, having been forced to reinvent the wheel, I put together my author’s page on Facebook, upgraded my author’s page on Amazon and released the book. (I am still working on the web page and the book video.)
As you might imagine, this entailed months of painstaking work, since this is meant to be the model for my post-geezer writing career and requires ALL of my multimedia skills AFTER the initial writing of the collection itself!
So, I readied my first offering of the new technological imprimateur for market. And I released the Kindle book.
And Facebook STRUCK!
Let me back up about a decade.
My experience began idyllically enough.
I found old friends and new on Facebook. We shared experiences and memes, and lived in real time together through events like the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona. We were a community. And it was Dr. Seuss.
Thence came the trolls. The horror of Republican/KKKonservative haters in their cess pool of talk radio and endless trolling of all comments boards everywhere was not enough, and they escaped into Facebook with a vengeance*. Every friend seemed to have one and they did their level best to shut down all conversation. I blocked something over a hundred at last count.
*(Emphasis on vengeance, with targeted communal complaints that landed me in FB jail for 30 days at a time for anonymous complaints over NOTHING comments and memes.)
This picture of a hot water bottle removed me from commenting on the 2016 election in the month preceding:
Thirty days in the hole for THIS!
Seriously? My Facebook experience had evolved from Dr. Seuss to the Brothers Grimm.
And the experience became increasingly nasty as I was “jailed” over and over again for ever-more-innocuous memes and comments. All evidently administered by robots. All In Robo Parentis. I was, for several years, infantilized by Zuckerberg’s Robo-Gestapo.
Indeed, I was FB jailed (which means you can view FB but you cannot comment) for 30 days over historical photos that depicted Hitler and Goebbels THREE TIMES!
This managed to net me 30 days in the hole. No appeals. No due process.
Seriously? Historical photos without dead bodies or rapes or naked corpses are censorable and punishable because of who is IN them?
My Facebook experience had became Orwellian as complicity and silence became the price of admission to my friends and family. Jailings were arbitrary and capricious.
censored by FB, click to enlarge
But when I turned in CLEARLY racist and misogynist rightie memes, they ALWAYS were “within Facebook’s terms of service.” Arbitrary and capricious: two words that epitomize Facebook’s “drunken mommy gone mad” approach to regulating adults.
And then, as I tried to release my book FOR THE SUMMER READING TRADE, I was trapped like an insect in amber in an infinite “do-loop.” That was when my Facebook experience became Kafkaesque.
Here’s how it worked:
Click to enlarge (opens in a new tab)
They claimed to call my cell phone for weeks and I was in limbo, with only the “we are sending a security code to #######” and then nothing ever happened. There was NO other possible action. There were only two screens: we are calling you and we just called you. Infinite Do-loop.
I tried other means. I tried back doors. I lived on the Help screens. Nope. Two screens: we are calling; we just called.
It was like arguing with a vending machine.
OK: It WAS arguing with a vending machine. Cambridge Analytica (types) are the buyers and I am the can of Coke™.
I tried every way imaginable, but the Robots of Facebook allow for NO human interaction or appeal. It was Kafka’s The Trial.
And then I realized that no, it was Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
Palmer Eldritch owned my universe (see below). Finally, I gave up.
Consider what I’d lost: friends, family, contacts. The ability to market my book and my blog (my readership is almost 100% from FB). Ten years of work. All gone at the whim of a microcircuit.
A microcircuit that cannot dial a freaking PHONE. (The number was right, but they were wrong. WordPress and Google have no problems sending me security codes. Heck, Google just did it this afternoon as I checked in with an unrecognized browser.)
But the vending machine can destroy your social/business life (depending on how much Chew-Z you’ve ingested. See below) and there’s NOTHING you can do about it. NOTHING.
(And please note that I am taking the most CHARITABLE interpretation of events. It is also likely that some faceless FB employee does not like my politics. That possibility CANNOT be discounted.)
In this case, there is no culpability, no responsibility, just the sad irony that the most HUMAN of social media allows NO human interaction with itself, and patrols ideas and thoughts with robot intelligences, who deny service and mete out punishments. Supposedly appeals are allowed, but who has even seen a human hand on an appeal?
No matter how innocuous or nonexistent my “sin” no appeal ever was met with any response WHATSOEVER.
(And FB LOVES to point you to their “community standards” page to leave you gasping WHAT COMMUNITY STANDARD DID I BREAK?!?? It is clearly a sadistic game, as the ‘enforcement’ of said vague standards is invariably capricious and arbitrary.)
The weeks went by until my account was finally “suspended” and I was allowed to appeal my “fault” for FB’s robotic glitch.
But the robots would STILL not allow me to download my DATA! (Even though they say you can.)
And then, I realized that my entire network of 800+ friends and contacts — painstakingly built over a decade and more — was arbitrarily and capriciously destroyed by faceless, perhaps not even human parties.
And then I realized that it was Dickian (NOT Dickensian): This was The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Mark Zuckerberg is Palmer Eldritch.
WARNING: Philip K. Dick spoilers. If you don’t want to read them, you probably ought to stop reading here.
SPOILERS! STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT ME RUINING Dick’s best novel for you.
Dick’s novel is set on an Earth that is so hot, people can’t go outside without special gear. The UN has instituted a draft for colonists to other planets, but things are so awful, they can only manage to remain sane by taking an illegal drug “Can-D” and then playing with their Barbie sets. (OK: the doll is called “Perky Pat” but is identical in its consumerism gone wild to Barbie and her endless world of spending.) Then those who have taken the drug can engage in SHARED hallucinatory fantasies.
Kind of like Facebook.
This is great for one firm, P.P. Layouts, who are gouging everyone with their endless Perky Pat houses and boats and clothes, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum ad infinitum. They don’t SELL Can-D, but the connection is clear. The novel was written in 1965, so if it seems rather prescient, well, it was.
Palmer Eldritch has returned from Proxima Centauri and is rescued from his crashed ship on Pluto.
Soon, the rumors spread that Eldritch has a NEW drug (Huey Lewis is nowhere in sight) called “Chew-Z” that DOESN’T REQUIRE the Perky Pat crap for the shared hallucination.
After lots of plot stuff, the protagonist, a Perky Pat employee sent as a mole into Eldritch’s operation (because if Can-D goes bellyup, the Perky Pat gravy train ends) finally takes Chew-Z, has a nice bunch of hallucinations and we end the novel with the realization that once you’ve taken Palmer Eldritch’s drug, he is the God of your new Universe.
Oh, and you can never leave. His “stigmata” show up everywhere in the new universe: His cyborg mechanical right hand, strange artificial eyes, and steel teeth. Thus the title. Eldritch has been altered by the inhabitants of the Prox system and may not be entirely human at all. And Chew-Z may well be their method of invading and subjugating the human species, but those questions remain unanswered.
(And, having read ALL of Philip K. Dick, thanks to Paul Williams’ 1974 article on him in Rolling Stone, Three Stigmata is still my favorite PKD novel.)
In my case, Palmer Eldritch is Mark Zuckerberg, and I seem to be trapped in his Chew-Z hallucination world.
And before I become a character in a Lovecraft story, I may well quit Mr. Zuckerberg’s twisted world.
It cannot be trusted. It can with the slightest twinge and no human involved, create grave harm.
Welcome to our dystopian future: One takes the Chew-Z of Facebook because it’s easier than facing the Perky Pat world of plastic people talking on cell phones while driving. But, in the end, we become slaves of the Zuck. And that is a horrifying and entirely Dickian denouement.
This was the conclusion of my swan song note to FB friends, before, miraculously, I was reinstated Sunday morning, with no note, no acknowledgement, and, most importantly, no apology whatsoever:
I cannot AFFORD to spend any time on Facebook. This will cause me some great loss of friends and family, and, sadly, that cannot be helped. But the consequences of STAYING are clear. The karma is Facebook’s. I don’t envy them it.
But I am like the protagonist in Eldritch: leaving isn’t really an option without ME being the big loser. The fact that most of my FB friends noticed that I’d been missing, but just figured I was in FB jail again points out how insignificant I am in the FB scheme of things, and I accept that.
I would have left with much pain, but leaving was involuntary and I learned long ago to NOT push the river.
I was planning on (and fully committed to) shutting down the free public writing portion of my life and concentrating in other areas NOT napalmed by faceless ‘bots (or FB employees?!??). I’ve had to do it before — as, say, when my family left Laramie, Wyoming, where I spent my boyhood, for ‘vacation’ in 1969 and then NEVER RETURNED — so I was fully committed to it. Starting over from point zero.
I had all but shut down my blog, and stopped marketing my book. I was slowly leaving Twitter. I made this announcement on Saturday night (on my “backdoor” account, which I suggest if you can pull it off):
There are 24 new drawings. I will post them tonight and then I will leave Facebook. This account will remain open, but rarely visited. Sorry. I don’t kowtow to Nazis. Even if named Zuckerberg.*
But then the ‘reprieve.’
And now I am trapped in the Dickian nightmare of Mark Zuckerberg’s Chew-Z world.
But this isn’t a whine on my behalf. I am fine. It’s YOU that I’m worried for: every little realtor, every custom guitar luthier, every small business that depends on Facebook. We have already seen what a policy shift by FB did to magazines and newspapers across the world. (Hint: yanked the revenue rug right out from under their feet; many are either still recovering or were dealt a mortal blow by the Zuck.)
I am worried for YOU. That anytime, anywhere, the FB robots can decide to wreck your world … and there is NOTHING that you can do about it. At least I can warn you of the dark universe we all now inhabit, over 2.5 BILLION of us (‘billion’ pronounced in the Carl Sagan manner).
We are all, and our politics is now in Palmer Eldritch’s world, with no way home.
And now everywhere I go in cyberspace there are the artificial eyes, the robotic hand and the steel teeth.
Oh, and Happy Hiroshima Day.
* Drawings will be up tonight. The delay is occasioned by the surprise reprieve from Palmer Eldritch.