How getting banned by Facebook cured me from Facebook addiction

One morning I was chatting with my wife on Facebook Messenger when suddenly messages stopped coming through. My Messenger app started blinking green and yellow frantically trying to connect and being kicked out every second or two. “Network problem” — I thought and checked other apps. No, everything was calm in the ether, all other messengers (I have half a dozen on my phone) were happily connected, browser worked, VPN worked — not a network problem. Well, I thought, even Facebook has bugs, I am sure they’ll deal with the outage in a few minutes, and we switched to old fashion SMS texting.

Some hours later when my friends started texting me (Skyping, Telegramming, WhatsApping, etc) about my Facebook account. Apparently, it has disappeared. All my comments have vanished, my profile shows some strange error. I promptly opened Facebook app and, sure enough, was kicked out. I tried logging in and saw a message asking me to upload a photo of myself. I took a selfie and uploaded it right away and then I saw this:

That’s annoying, I thought, but I guess I can survive 72 hours without Facebook. The next three days were going to be busy anyway. Out of curiosity I googled “72 hours Facebook” and found that teenagers are challenging each other to go on a 72 hour social media fast. I thought it was funny.

24 hours passed. I tried logging in — same thing. Grrrr…. do they really need 3 days to check my photo? Don’t they have face recognition to match my selfie to thousands of other photos of me on Facebook?

I am starting to crave newsfeed, feeling a bit like a smoking addict looking for stashed cigarettes. I found Google News. Now I am checking Google News instead of Facebook… probably once every 5 or 10 minutes. I check my Facebook account every hour or so — same thing.

48 hours passed. This is getting really annoying. I am googling more about “72 hours Facebook” and finding lots of angry comments from people complaining how the 72 hours lasts for weeks and months. I am getting VERY concerned.

72 hours passed. Now I am angry. I am trying to get to Facebook support, but of course, there is no way to email anyone, let alone chatting with a real person. All I get are some useless FAQs and more complains from people who are being ignored by Facebook. I want to post my own complain, but, here’s the catch — you need a working Facebook account in order to post on Facebook support forums. It also happens that Facebook Developer Conference is happening right now and there is much praising of Facebook’s new security, which makes me even angrier, because I am feeling like I am a victim of some bug in that glorious new security.

96hours passed. Checking Google News every 5 minutes. Checking my Washington Post subscription — neither satisfies the craving for a newsfeed. Feeling like a drug addict now. I need a newsfeed fix! Trying to go back to Twitter. I can get no satisfaction…

Also, now I am really angry. I manage several Facebook pages and I cannot access them. I spent thousands of $$$ on Facebook ads for Gotit.media(https://facebook.com/gotit.media). My co-founders and I have been working hard on promoting the page and now we are loosing subscribers. All that effort and money wasted because Facebook decided that I am not me or because of a bug in their system, or just because they don’t give a $#@t.

Then I remember that few years ago I created another Facebook account for networking with community of 3D designers for a website I was managing. I don’t think Facebook had “one account per person” policy back then, or maybe they didn’t enforce it. Anyway, I logged in with that account and my co-admin gave me access to manage Gotit.media page. Thinking about how bad it would have been if I had no co-admins makes me shiver. Do we need to exert some higher level of control over such monstrous platforms that can kill entire businesses with a simple glitch?

120 hours passed. I send a request to get my data from Facebook. I get an automated response that directs me to log in to my account and…. except of course I cannot log in to my account… I respond to that explaining my situation. I get nothing in return. I wonder now, if someone gets blocked by Facebook — is there any way they can get their data back without hiring an attorney?

Then… EUREKA! There is LinkedIn. There must be someone in my network, who works at Facebook and should be able to help. After all, I’ve been in Silicon Valley for 15 years. I am browsing my LinkedIn for people who work at Facebook. Found several contacts and reached out.

144 hours passed. To add insult to injury, Facebook is now sending me emails listing all the updates from my friends that I missed, all the events that I have been invited to and missed. Seriously? This feels like some cruel joke or special kind of psychological torture. A former co-worker, who now works in Facebook tells me she cannot really help me get my account back, but she can open a ticket internally and describe my situation. In many frantic and disorganized LinkedIn messages I tell her my sad story. I have hope now.

168 hours passed. I unsubscribe from Facebook email updates. Somehow, this worked even though I still cannot log in. +1 for anti-spam rules, I guess. I send another request to get my data from Facebook. Same message loop with an email bot. Maybe I should write a bot to chat with Facebook support bot over email?

I use my newly discovered alter-ego Facebook account to post on Facebook support page, send them chat messages — all I get are automated canned responses. The automated responses suggest that I can appeal my account and try to get it back by going here(https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/260749603972907). However, when I try submitting the appeal form, it tells me that my account is not disabled. Great… so it isn’t disabled and it isn’t enabled. Facebook has surpassed Comcast for the first place in bad customer support.

192 hours passed. I am now reading Medium and listening to more books on Audible. Taking long walks with an audio book instead of scrolling newsfeed.

216 hours… I exchange more messages with my colleague on LinkedIn. She added more info to the ticket, but who knows if and how it will get resolved.

240 hours… My hope is starting to die and I am settling into my “backup” Facebook account. It doesn’t have any friends though, so there is nothing to read in the feed. Starting to “re-friend” my friends with my new Facebook account. My Facebook background picture looks like this:

264 hours. I am making evil plans that include getting a job interview at Facebook and staging a protest inside the office. Reading more and more posts about how people lost access to their Facebook pages because of similar glitches. Maybe there is a class action lawsuit in there somewhere? I can imagine that getting blocked from Facebook can be rather devastating for people who have their entire businesses on Facebook.

I give up on Google News — mostly terrifying political crap there. On the bright side, I am burning through audio books, accomplishing more at work, keeping my Fitbit happy by taking 15 minute breaks and walking instead of browsing. I am reading articles on my Medium subscription and enjoying lack of deceiving headlines and click baits. Life is starting to get brighter without Facebook.

Epilog

2 weeks later my account was unlocked without any notice. I logged in and looked at my newsfeed… I remembered how I smoked a cigarette for the first time a year after I quit smoking. That is what reading Facebook felt like after two weeks of not reading it. Extremely disgusting. Why would I ever do that to myself again?

Two weeks after my account got unlocked, I still didn’t reinstall Facebook app on my phone and I am not logging in to read the newsfeed anymore. I use the Messenger, I sometimes look at my friends pages and pages that post short videos, like GIGadgets and Tech Insider. I post videos on Gotit.media. I feel completely cured from Facebook addiction.

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