So this all began a week or two ago, when Facebook deleted a ton of accounts en masse, all belonging to drag performers, all for contravening a ‘real name’ clause in their terms. Basically, they can all use their full legal names (and Facebook is requiring legal ID to evidence them), switch their existing profiles to ‘fan pages’, or get off Facebook completely.
Okay, I’m going to talk about something which is going to make many of us uncomfortable: the gay PDA. More specifically, about the reaction to gay PDAs.
Following on from yesterday’s saga…
The email I sent bounced back with a generic “We don’t deal with this, go to the Help pages” response. I found a page that let me file a dispute to an account being disabled. Hurrah! Except… they want me to scan my ID (drivers’ licence, passport) and upload it as a JPEG. I decided to send this instead.
I amused myself in nothing else.
But then — disaster!
So apparently the account I’m blocked from isn’t actually disabled, meaning I have precisely zero ways of resolving this issue, because clearly finding a human being at Facebook is less likely than finding a baboon picking its arse on Mars. In fact, I’m inclined to think there are no people at Facebook, just cyborg overlords, and arse-picking baboons.
So, fine, I decided to go back, and was greeted with this:
Yeah, if only I could log in, there would be no drama. Oy.
Then, on a whim, I decided to see what would happen if I entered a false name.
~cue choirs of angelic cherubs singing aaaaaaaah-aaaaaaah-ah~
Ladies and gentlemen, Katrina Aaron has entered the building.
No, I don’t know who she is, either.
The bot then scolded me for telling porkies in the past, and informed me that I can never, ever change my name on Facebook again. So. Apparently they prefer the pet name my high school art teacher gave me over the name my parents chose. There is a delicious irony to this that, being English, I adore.
No doubt next week Facebook will inform me that I’m actually Norwegian and I’ll stop being amused.
So I am back, although FSM knows for how long, but during my 24-hours without my lord and master, without sanctuary and security, when I was just a lone voice crying in the wilderness, I did at least learn a few lessons.
1. I am way too dependent on Facebook.
I advocate diversity in ebook distribution because I recognise that a monopoly is A Bad Thing, so why not with social media?
2. I’d miss you guys if I couldn’t get back on there.
I have over 700 Facebook friends. I don’t interact with all of them, but I do with a startling number, many of whom I don’t know/follow anywhere else. Finding you again would become my lifelong quest if I lost you.
3. Facebook is about more than my online friends.
My school friends are on there, and people I used to work with. I like seeing what they’re up to. There’s also photos on there, of me and my friends, of big occasions in our lives, which I’d be devastated to lose. For the past nineteen months, AJ and I have spoken on Facebook messenger every single day. Usually for hours on end. From the moment she got up in the morning to the moment I went to bed, if our timezones were in sync we were talking. We fell in love on Facebook. Our whole history was there. And now it’s gone. It might not be a real-life tragedy, but I’m genuinely gutted.
With that last point in mind, there is something we can all do — download our Facebook data.
At the top right of your screen, click on the faded down arrow, then click ‘Settings’.
That will bring up your General Account Settings. At the bottom, click ‘Download a Copy’ of your Facebook data. You’ll be taken through setting up an archive, then they’ll email you when the file is ready and you download it as a zip. It will contain all your contacts, all your conversations, all your pictures, and also some bonus goodies like the ads you’ve clicked on, the time you’ve spent online, and your security details. All stuff worth knowing and keeping, because you don’t want conversations you’d prefer to keep for ever and ever to end up like this.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read my wall posts from 2007.
TL;DR. In future, I will be on Facebook. There are people and groups there I don’t want to lose contact with. I will, however, be less dependent on any single network. I’m active on Twitter and Tumblr as well as Facebook and this blog, and I’ve just entered the murky waters of G+. I hope to see some of you on those other platforms, too. And don’t forget you can always sign up to my mailing list if you’d prefer that I contact you about new releases and special promotions (I promise, no spam, not ever).
So, I’m sure you’ve heard how certain trans* performers and drag artists have recently fallen victim to Facebook’s sudden insistence that everybody on its site uses their full, legal name. I’m sure you’ve read all about the potential pitfalls and repercussions attendant with such a stipulation, especially in a country where in most states you can still be dismissed from your job and evicted from your home for being LGBT. Plus, y’know, the very real risk some people face of being physically harmed, were their identities known.
Authors, too, have many good reasons to use pen names. Again with the LGBT firing/eviction thing, but also because *whisper it* there are some crazies out there, and maybe we don’t all want our fans googling where we live and stalking us outside our homes, mmmkay?
Now I knew all of this, in an intellectual, it-doesn’t-affect-me kinda way. See, I use my real name on facebook. That’s because I was born and raised in a civilised country where I have certain legal protections which mean my boss can’t fire me for writing m/m, and nor can my landlord evict me. I know, I know, a glut of luxuries — right?
So my personal facebook page became my business facebook page. Fans and authors brush shoulders with ex-colleagues from my last day job, and people I went to school and college and uni with. You’d think, with so many different people knowing me, sharing and tagging pictures of me, and stipulating from whence they knew me, facebook would understand that I’m actually who I say I am.
I wasn’t expecting that.
So now I’ve got to give facebook my real name, otherwise I’ll be locked out of my account for ever and ever and ever. No problem, right? I’ll just put in my real name — i.e., the one I was using all along — and things will be fine. Right?
I kinda was expecting that.
But this raises some interesting questions. Who approved my name (or didn’t, in this case)? What information do they think they hold on me that they think they know, without asking me for confirmation, what my “real name” actually is? What database are they accessing, who gave them access to it, and how are they using it? They haven’t asked me to provide any evidence of my name (but if they think they’re getting a scan of my passport, they can think again), they’re telling me outright, “Nope, we know that’s not your name. Try again!”
Well, bullshit. Firstly, that is my name. Secondly, how do they think they know that it isn’t, anyway?
Honestly, I’m past trying to get my account back. Now I want to know what information they’re accessing about me.
Also, I’m a little bit pissed at the sheer inanity of the process. “Enter Name.” “Wrong Name. Enter Name.” Well who the fuck do I contact if you think the right name is the wrong name? There’s no support link. I go to facebook Help and under “suspended accounts” they tell me to follow the instructions on screen to unsuspend it. “Enter Name.” And round we go again.
So. I’m on Twitter, I’m on tumblr, I’m on my blog. I might or might not get a response to the shirty email I finally sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Given I was asking more questions about their information source than getting my account back, I’m not holding my breath.
If they do respond, the next question I’ll be asking is why it’s only LGBT people I’m hearing that are affected by this move. Again, I won’t hold my breath for an answer.
In June 2011 when I first published Blood & Ash, no-one knew me. The wonders of anonymity – I could wander out into the big, bad world and do as I pleased. That is no-longer the case. A year and a half down the line, my identity has been compromised; the line between my fiction and my reality blurred. As an author – rather than just Kate-who-wrote-a-book – I try to keep some distance between my everyday life and my online life.
We all do, because we’ve all heard horror stories of fourteen year olds who announce a birthday party on Facebook, only to have the house trashed when three hundred twenty year olds gatecrash; or individual cases like the editor who got carjacked by an irate author whose book she rejected – who found her by stalking her on Twitter. This stuff happens.
So where’s the line?