July 18, 2013

5 Unexpected Benefits of a 30-Day Exile from Facebook. ~ Lori Ann Lothian

When Facebook blocked my personal account for 30 days (no “liking’ or status updates, or posts allowed) my first reaction was fury, quickly followed by panic.

Righteous anger flared because I’d been blocked for something I simply did not do. In fact, I was in the Facebook slammer for an image posted by a manager on elephant Journal’s 120K fan FB page where I was just one of a dozen other content creators, and top top things off, inactive for months. (For the outrageous backstory of how a mindfulness magazine is now on FB’s third-strike-and you-are-unpublished firing line, go here).

In the face of media hoopla, Facebook admitted its mistake and restored the image, which (oops) was not nudity but art (in fact a famed Tara Lempicka 1932 art deco oil painting of Adam and Eve).

Yet, the block to my account and other page managers remained in place until the expiry dates, anywhere from 24 hours to, like me, 30 days despite attempts by the policy spokesperson to restore my account.

This same thing recently happened to Fox radio personality Todd Starnes, who kept tweeting that his 12-hour block (for posting a sort of funny conservative parody of himself) was never lifted even after Facebook recanted with a mea culpa—again, only because the Washington Post had bothered to report the story. (Note to WTF file: When Facebook algorithms kick in to block accounts for community standards violations even if the reported violation was not a violation and Facebook says sorry, the block cannot be reversed. Shhhh. That’s a dirty little Facebook Secret, hinted at here on their own help center page. “Unfortunately we can’t lift this block for any reason.”).

Panic set in next. I realized I had put way too many social media eggs in the Facebook basket. I’d used Facebook daily as an editor (currently at The Good Men Project to promote content of writers I was working with, as well as my own. And sure, while I have my Twitter account growing steadily, that’s nothing compared to nearly 4000 FB friends and over 20 FB groups I belong to.

Now, in a Facebook policing error, I was literally out of work for a month—not to mention out of virtual touch with people I had gotten into the networking habit with, and who even though they were not real life connections, had begun to feel like real friends.

All at once, after six years of being a happy Facebook camper, I was now a social media outcast, looking on as friends and colleagues posted status updates and articles, and all I could do was watch. It’s like going to the buffet table and being told you can’t eat. Aw heck, it’s more like going to a bar when you are detoxing and saying, “I’ll have a soda water” while your friends are ordering margaritas. I can’t count the times I habitually hit the LIKE button and got a chastising message from Facebook reminding me I was a bad girl in time out, and that feature would not be available for another x days.

Facebook withdrawal starts out nasty.

In the beginning, like a drowning swimmer, I clung by email to Alison Schumer, the apologietic Facebook policy spokesperson who had tried for three days to unblock my account, who probably feeling embarrassingly impotent (or I like to think so, otherwise my thoughts went to the dark side as I imagined her cackling at my desperation.)

I drank waaaay too much chardonnay for a few nights. I tweeted obsessively about my plight. I wrote a scathing indictment and expose of Facebook, still sitting like a loaded pistol inmy drafts at elephant journal. (I am terrified to run it—a more newsy piece I wrote for GMP (Facebook Cracks Down on Adult Content, Spares Playboy?) was blocked from users newsfeeds in the first 12 hours after nearly 3000 people shared it.) I have emails after emails from friends saying the article disappeared even from their page or timeline right after sharing. I even saw it evaporate off the page of one of my friends just as she posted it, in my company, then just as she drew it’s dissapearance to the attention of several FB friends who had just commented on it, it mysteriously reappeared).

You can get paranoid this way. Especially when the next Big Brother hit happened after Facebook not only banned me from my own account, but then three weeks later permanently deleted a sex educational FB page (20K fans, 100K weekly reach) I’d spent six months and 3K building.

So after the rage, panic, desperation, bout of binge drinking…drumroll please…

The 5 Unexpected Benefits of Facebook Exile:

1. Return of the Family Girl.

Okay, I have a family beyond my virtual “we are the world” Internet friends. I live with one daughter, 14, a German Shepherd named Leela and a husband. Turns out I was a bit missing in action on the domestic front pre-exile, tuned into channel Facebook nearly full time. Now, my daughter was sweetly bringing me games of Scrabble and Sorry from her room to play with me in the evenings. Now my husband was offering body massages and non-virtual affection. (Those emoticons have nothing on a real kiss).

2. Earthing Happens.

I live a block from the beach and a five minute walk from nature trails. When Facebook cut me off, I went to Mama Nature for solace (well, after the wine rack was bare). I found myself talking long walks, smelling the roses, picking up stones and bird feathers, putting my bare feet in the sand and sea. And in all of this, feeling happy.

3. Yoga makes a Comeback.

I started doing yoga 30 years ago, everything from Iyengar to Vinasaya, to hot yoga. Kundalini yoga was a seven year life changer. Yet in the last two years I’d lapsed, a yoga backslider. The pure frustration of being unfairly blocked from my Facebook account sent me to the mat for solace. After a few classes, solace became enthusiasm. Instead of an escape to yoga, I found myself back in the sweet groove of a call to yoga.

Did I mention my standing bow sucks after two years off the mat?

Yet, I am just so glad to be back I don’t even blink when my toppling tree pose actually topples.

4. Holy Eureka.

You know those light bulbs that fire up on top of your head every now and then when a really great idea drops into your mind from nowhere. Well, with Facebook gone as a daily distraction, I began having bouts of inspiration and inventive thinking. In fact, one of these is a top secret new website that I’m conspiring to create with a mastermind of a creative woman friend. And that’s just one of the many ah-has to arrive on my doorstep now that Facebook is not in my face all day.

5. Incoming Flower Power:  (AKA, in-flooding peace and love.)

There’s something about having no control that invites the recognition that control is a really stupid expectation, one sure to let you down. So when the shock of being blocked wore off, along with the anger and panic, I began to count blessings.  I started to see the good that had come out of this adversity, and thus, this article.

When my 30 day block from FB ended, other than liking two posts by two friends (from my mobile app) I had no desire to hang out in Facebook land.

In fact it felt like a kind of Pandora’s box, with the lid no longer locked. Instead of a day of virtual living, I sat out on my grass in the sun and edited an article by a new GMP writer, and wrote this piece.

I wonder if Facebook will block it?

And I wonder, as someone who has been divorced by Facebook and rediscovered the true love of  real life, will I even care?

(This article first appeared at Good Men Project.)


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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