Facebook has become a big part of everyday life in such a short time that I am sure most of us will break its rules, unintentionally, from time to time. When we do so I think it is reasonable to expect a little empathy followed by explanation and understanding in the form of a friendly rebuke. I was rather disappointed at Facebook’s impersonal and rather heavy-handed approach to a purely accidental infringement on my part recently. I was handed a 7 day block, followed up a few days later with another 14 day block (the reason for the second 14 days, I know not) from sending friend requests because I invited some of a Facebook’s friend’s friends, whom I didn’t know but, like me, are writers. Interestingly enough about 80% accepted my invitation without hesitation. So clearly they were happy to befriend me. That does not exonerate me from my misdemeanour of course.
Facebook then told me, unequivocally, in a generic communique, that I had broken the rules and that I am only allowed to invite people I know, like friends and family, and if I don’t stop inviting people who don’t know me they will ban me from Facebook. The message, although generic, was, nevertheless, stark and very clear and there was absolutely no empathy for the likes of dim-witted folk like me. I was not invited to plead; I was found guilty without a trial. I have no defence; I don’t know the rules. I was admonished, unceremoniously, like a naughty schoolboy in the following head-liners:
‘You’re blocked from sending friend requests for 7 days’
‘Cancel pending friend requests’
‘Don’t send friend requests to people who don’t know you’.
‘You’re blocked from sending friend requests for 14 days’
I will not make excuses for breaking the Facebook rules. I do have a reason though. I can’t find any RULES document and Facebook did not point me to one either. I am just trying to understand the rationale and the contradiction in TERMS and PRINCIPLES which I did manage to find here.
This set me thinking. In the physical (as opposed to cyber) world none of us could ever know anybody or have any friends, other than immediate family, if we never communicated with people who are not known us. After all is that not how, in the first place, we get to know people who may then become friends? It all sounds rather banal, I know, but it is physically impossible to know someone without first not knowing them. So then I checked some Facebook users out only to find that there are many many people on Facebook with thousands of friends who, according to Facebook’s instructions to me, they are obliged to know as family, friends or acquaintances. So I scoured Facebook Principles and guess what? I can’t find any reference to this obligation whatsoever. Surely the mighty Facebook cannot be wrong. I must be mistaken. My brain is whirring; I fail to see how anyone could possibly physically know as many as 2500 to 5000 people, many of which probably reside in parts of the world the Facebook member has never visited!! So how, I ask myself, did they acquire these Facebook friends? Surely they wouldn’t have dared to break the rules.
Let me turn it round for a moment. I would hazard a guess that 99% plus of the people who invite me on Facebook don’t know me from a bar of soap and I haven’t a clue who they are either. So are we all breaking the rules? If so can I assume that they will be blocked the same as me? Or have I been singled out for some reason? If I only invited people I know I would probably be talking to myself most of the time, as most of my ‘friends’ (in the real sense of the word) or people I know, don’t use Facebook. But now I am a marked man. I will never be able to invite anyone to be my friend on Facebook again because there isn’t anyone left who knows me who is on Facebook that I am aware of. I’ll just have to revert to that prehistoric device called the telephone or acquire a flock of carrier pigeons. How sad; I was really enjoying learning all about this wonderful new Social Media thingy!!
So what is Facebook really all about?
Well; most of us know that it was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and some college mates at Harvard University in 2004 to help students communicate with each other on campus. But it has moved on from there somewhat and has since developed into a powerful social and business network. Barack Obama hired Zuckerberg and has millions of Facebook “Friends”. How on earth did he do it without breaking the rules?
What am I misunderstanding here? Is my impression that the idea of Facebook is to connect, not only with people you know but also, with people you don’t know, thereby adding other users as Facebook friends to widen your circle completely wrong?
From the messages I have been sent by Facebook it seems that it is and I have misunderstood the invisible rules and the purpose of Facebook. Therefore, I am guilty.
The following are relevant extracts from Facebook Principles:
- Freedom to Share and Connect
People should have the freedom to share whatever information they want, in any medium and any format, and have the right to connect online with ANYONE – any person, organization or service – as long as they both consent to the connection.
- Ownership and Control of Information
People should own their information. They should have the FREEDOM to share it with ANYONE they want and take it with them anywhere they want, including removing it from the Facebook Service. People should have the FREEDOM to decide with whom they will share their information, and to set privacy controls to protect those choices. Those controls, however, are not capable of limiting how those who have received information may use it, particularly outside the Facebook Service.
- Social Value
People should have the FREEDOM to build trust and reputation through their identity and connections, and should not have their presence on the Facebook Service removed for reasons other than those described in FACEBOOK’S STATEMENT OF RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
I concur wholeheartedly with these principles which is a good enough reason to join Facebook and I cannot find anything in the document relating to my transgression. Furthermore, these wholesome principles appear to contradict the Facebook communiques with me. This, therefore, only serves to leave me even more confused. I have not written to Facebook as I fear I will only get another generic response or harder slap on the wrist. So I will serve my ban with dignity. If you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for me and my shrinking friends list on Facebook, please comment:
Facebook Terms – https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms