Losing My Voice

Facebook locked me out of my account this week. And let me in. And locked me out. I built a second account, and Facebook locked that too. It said it was an impersonation. No, it was me. Well, then I must be impersonating myself. Is that even a thing?

This went on for several days, some times hour by hour. Before long, Facebook and I had thoroughly confused each other. Fortunately, it ended well. Nobody was impersonating anyone. The malware at the root of this evil is gone. The account is unlocked.

And then, I caught a cold and lost my voice.

I can still speak, but the sounds coming out of my mouth don’t sound like me at all. I alternate between a rumbling growl and a ludicrous squeak. Every few sentences, the sound just cuts off altogether, in the middle of a word.

But it’s not permanent, and it’s not insurmountable. My family can still understand me, and if they couldn’t, I could use point-and-poke sign language, scribble notes on paper, or just go to bed and sleep until my voice comes back.

Facebook, not so much. Turns out, it’s stunningly easy to lose contact with the 500+ professional and personal contacts I have on that platform. It can happen instantly, without warning, and the feedback loops for reporting and correcting the situation are precarious at best. For example, when I was sending the “This is me, actually, and here is my identification” email, an automated response informed me that I was posting my report in the wrong channel and should log into my Facebook account and post it there. Well, yes, but the purpose of this wrongly posted report was to inform Facebook that my account was wrongfully locked. Vicious circle.

This is not Facebook’s fault. Facebook is too large to manage without an avalanche of automated responses. But automated responses aren’t all that responsive. You can’t explain anything to them. You can’t break through the barrier with facial expressions or hand signs. All you can do is keep typing and clicking and hoping.

For about a day, I was contemplating the possibility that I’d be locked out of Facebook forever. (Yes, I tried creating a second account. That’s how the impersonation problem started.) In some senses, this is not a loss. I lived for several decades before Facebook was invented. But the world I lived in then did not depend on Facebook, or any other social media platform, for communication. In those days, I would have had telephone numbers, and later email addresses, for all 500+ people I know and work with now online. But we don’t operate like that any more.

What’s your biggest social media platform? If you were locked out of it tomorrow, how would you get in touch with the people you contact there? What would you lose if you lost those contacts?

I would lose an entire community of creative professionals, colleagues, and friends. I talk to other writers on Facebook, authors, bloggers, podcasters, interview guests, artists, project collaborators, college friends, other parents from school and church, the odd caterer or literary agent, and potentially a dog-catcher’s uncle’s girlfriend’s dentist. I talk to everyone I want to talk to, everyone I need to talk to. Without that platform, I would lose my voice.

It’s strange to be so interdependent – to work online and to maintain your ability to do that work online, to operate constantly in a constructed and malleable electronic world where actions that are so quick and facile as to appear almost imaginary can have such lasting real-world effects. My two worlds, real and virtual, are permanently attached. This week was a warning to me. I need to reinforce the tenuous bond between them.