In my last post I explained my decision to adopt a policy of limited personal use of Facebook. I then moved to stand by my decision my joining Facebook.
I thought that it would take only a few minutes. Instead it took me three days.
It all started when I submitted to Facebook's apparently new standard security policy. I can understand passing a captcha to prove I'm not a robot. I can also understand Facebook wanting to prevent the creation of multiple accounts for the same individual. What I don't understand is why they couldn't send a confirmation phone to my phone via text.
Here's a cropped screenshot of Facebook asking me to provide a phone number.
When I provide my phone number, I see this little dandy window pop up.
I would become very familiar with this window, because the text that was purportedly coming "soon" didn't come within the next 5 minutes. When I click Resend, I see the little window refresh, but there is no text message that appears in my phone.
In the lower left corner behind the window is a link that says "I need help." I saw that, cancelled out of the smaller window, and clicked on that link. It brought me to the Facebook help pages, which you can see here.
The last option ("I can't use my phone to verify my identity.") captured my attention. Here's what I saw when I selected it.
I don't mind submitting a request for assistance, but did they really expect me to send them an image of my driver's license? See for yourself.
I can understand Facebook wanting a reliable and standardized way of confirming identity. At the same time, they along with everyone else have a snowball's chance in hell of me actually surrendering a digital image of a document that could be used to steal my identity.
My sister had a hard time believing that Facebook actually wanted a copy of my driver's license just to start an account, so I invited her to come over and see for herself. My sister is more liberal when it comes to privacy and sharing very personal information in a public forum, but even she cringed at the option of sending a digital image of one's driver's license. My sister and I navigated around the site, trying to find another way for me to confirm my identity. All we could see was an option to submit a report about the incident. So I did and then moved on to other things while I waited.
Three days later I get an email from Facebook. At first I thought that perhaps they had solved my problem and were going to help me. Oh, the optimism of youth! They had sent me an automated message telling me that if I did not confirm my account within three days of joining that my account would be locked. So I have three days to confirm my account, but the only reminder you give me to confirm within the three-day window is right before that window is about to close? This is just more fuel for my Facebook user-unfriendliness fire.
I followed the link in the email, logged into Facebook, and found the same confirmation steps I had encountered previously. I tried entering in the confirmation code that appeared in the email, but Facebook said that code was invalid. If it was invalid, then why did you give it to me? I thought.
I don't know what happened, but after repeating a few more iterations of resending the confirmation code, I finally got a robot from Facebook calling me to give me the code. I entered it, and nothing seemed to happen. With no way of knowing whether or not the code took, I didn't know what to do.
Then I decided that I would just log out and then log back in. I then was greeted with this lovely notice.
I wanted to laugh. I mean, here is Facebook making my account creation a three-day ordeal, and they tell me that if I want to prevent this in the future I need "to learn the right way to share and interact on Facebook"! I couldn't even get into Facebook to share anything or interact with anyone! Of course, once I got in, then establishing a very bare bones profile took a few minutes.
I know from searching with Google and other sites to investigate my online reputation that at least 14 other people in the world share my first and last names. So I don't discount Facebook from being skeptical, especially if they are serious about enforcing a policy of one account per real person.
That being said, it shouldn't take three days to figure this out. I'm not sure what the problem was with the texting, but someone inside Facebook needs to look at that. I'd love to talk to someone inside Facebook about it, but they don't provide me with any means to contact them. After all, I'm not a customer. I'm just a user.
That's why, as soon as I could, I submitted a photo and changed both my profile name and username to reflect the brand I have been trying to create to differentiate my from those other 14 guys I referenced earlier.
So now I'm on Facebook, though still very cautious and skeptical. We will see where this takes me.
Lately I’ve been re-evaluating my position with Facebook.
Historically I’ve opposed using Facebook. You can read my case against Facebook if you aren’t yet up to speed. In short, Facebook has a business model in which the user is not the customer and the company has behaved very untrustworthily. So I never signed up.
A recent experience brought that policy into question. As I sought out more information about electronic publishing (in order to promote my upcoming book), I began to see that in order to be successful one needs to establish a platform — a following that will buy the book and spread the word both before and after the book becomes available. I have a small following on the blog for my first book, which I have been working on for the past three years, but I need a much larger reach if I am to have the success with it that I really want.
Putting the pieces together, I began to see that without social media my journey to that success would be very much uphill and very steep.
So I re-examined my earlier conclusion in light of the new information I had encountered. What resulted was what you see elsewhere on this website. The page formerly titled “Why I Don’t Facebook” was re-titled “Dancing with Facebook” because I did change my position slightly to allow Facebook use, though on a limited basis. I feel like I took two steps back and then one step forward.
What brought about this change of thinking? It wasn’t the steep cliff I would need to climb if I didn’t use social media to promote my upcoming book. That just got the ball rolling. I still would have attempted to climb that steep cliff had my deliberations returned the earlier verdict.
What changed my thinking was the introduction of a new perspective. Why was I engaging electronic publishing to begin with? Sure, there are the dreams of starting a new business and finding a new flow of funds that will let me have more control over my life. But ultimately I wanted (and still do want) to take the unique contribution that I believe that I can make and dent in the universe. Perhaps the dent will be very small, but the world will be in a slightly better shape than when I found it because of my contribution.
I saw the question of using social media as a question of how large I wanted my sphere of influence to be. I can make a small dent and be very satisfied with that. But what if my contribution could bring light and goodness to more people? And since I love to dream big, when I imagined more people, I imagined many, many more people. Social media makes that possible on a scale unseen before on the stage of history.
Choosing to stay away is choosing to remain aloof, to dim the light of my candle so that it shines not quite as bright as it might.
These considerations do not invalidate my earlier conclusions about Facebook’s business model and track record of untrustworthiness. While the use of Facebook threatens the majority of my top 10 values, Facebook does have the potential to promote many of my other values, including my top 3 values of truth, imagination, and freedom. It all depends on how I use the platform.
I believe in being in the world but not of the world. To be in the world means engaging with it, and much of the world of the early 21st century is on Facebook. There are other social media platforms, but none have anywhere near the reach of Facebook. If I truly believe what I say I do, then I must engage the world.
I still prefer living in the real world. I still don’t trust Facebook. And I still think that privacy matters. But I am willing to trade a limited use of the Facebook platform for the opportunity to make my unique contribution, because the alternative means limiting my sphere of influence and with that the contribution that only I can make.
Here you can find news and announcements I want to share. In between I'll include reviews of the books I read. Find me on Goodreads.com for more book reviews.