Strange reversal by Facebook restores my account to normal

Before going to sleep last night I saw this message from Facebook.

I checked the acknowledgment and continued. After that, I saw I could again post in all the groups I was unable to before.

They never once said what the initial problem was. Or if they didn’t like my United News Reports page and unpublished it why that had the side effect of initially disabling my entire account for over a week, and then after letting me back in blocking me from making new posts (but not comments) in more than half my groups – but not all my groups. There was no pattern to it at all.

Anyway, things are back to the way they were now. Still, I don’t trust Facebook and have revived multiple alternate venues of communication including this blog, the social network software made by my company (great for private-labeled social networks for places like schools, churches, non-profits, clubs, etc., who want control over content and design and features), and also Reddit, which has very supportive diet and health groups I’ve been using since the Facebook troubles started.

I’ll continue to use Facebook, but just not rely on it being there. There is no user support (not even bad user support – there literally is none), and it is obvious we are their product and not their customers.

At any rate, things suddenly returned to “normal” (as normal is defined in the Facebook world).

Life after Facebook

I was surprised a couple of days ago to receive a notice from Facebook that my account had been disabled.

To tell the truth, I felt more bemused than horrified at first. And I got a huge amount of real work done that morning! Of course I was curious what happened. I can’t access, but from friends I know they see a blank page for my profile, and they can’t see my Facebook Messenger messages anymore. Yet my groups and pages are apparently still there. I can’t tell though because I can’t login to check.

I did request review, and emailed my ID, and maybe soon I’ll be allowed back in. Or maybe I won’t. I really have no idea what happened.

If I do get back in I’m going to deemphasize Facebook in my life. And I will definitely stop using Facebook Messenger. People who communicate me solely via Messenger have no way of knowing what happened to me – unless my friends share a link to this blog post and let people know. Please do share this – I would appreciate it. More on messaging me going forward below.

My History with Social Networking

I’ve always been into social networking, even decades before it was called that. In college and grad school there were newsgroups. I think that system has been taken over by Google for their support forums. There were newsgroups for just about any topic in the world. All straight text. Scientific topics, social topics, math, movies. Just streams of text passed around from center to center.

Social networks of sorts even go way back before then. I’ve read about telegraph operators in the 1800s chatting with each other in between dispatching telegrams.

In the 1980s I had my own dialup BBS. It started with a single phone line, and eventually I had 8 lines and a switchboard thingie to handle the load. At that time, phone lines themselves were expensive, and members of my BBS gave donations to help pay for it.

There was also TWICS, which was started in part by my good friend Dave Fisher and his English school, Nichibei. Dave passed away last year at age 100, but that’s where we met – on TWICS.

After that came what people call the Internet today. It had already existed for some time as the U.S. government-created Arpanet, and access was restricted, but a decision was made to open it up and all sorts of things followed – websites and blogs and more. The world changed. I even ran one of the first dialup Internet systems in Japan in the 1990s – inJapan. The speed was 64 Kbps and I had massive dialup boards. Eventually I sold it to another company, but still have the domain, and there are still a few people I continue to support with their email addresses to this day.

My first experience with what we more commonly consider social networks was with Mixi – the Japanese social network. I’m still a member, but rarely login. And remember MySpace? I probably still have an account there.

And then came the behemoth – Facebook – which swept everything else away. There are now apparently over 2.7 billion members. That’s more than one-third the entire human population of Earth. Something that large is hard to compete with.

Alternatives to Facebook?

Is it still possible to have private, independent social networks? Yes, of course. In fact my company makes and hosts such software – WebCrossing Neighbors. While Facebook-like (or Mixi-like), it’s for defined groups like schools, churches, non-profits, clubs, education networks, and companies who want complete control over their content and branding.

Is it possible to do have a social network other than Facebook anymore and still find your old friends and relatives, and all those groups, and link everybody up the way Facebook does?

The neck is getting people to join something else – some place extra in addition to where they already signed up. People consider joining new sites a nuisance. If you create a sub-Reddit, you might get people to join because a lot of people already belong to Reddit. But if you make your own small social network, it’s hard to convince people to sign up for yet one more thing unless it’s a well-defined circle or organization. It’s even hard to get people to subscribe to your personal blog these days. You can subscribe to my blog here if you want to be sure to stay in touch.

What is it about sharing?

Not everybody feels the need to share. I realize that. I know people who are perfectly happy to live without constantly sharing everything they are interested in and thinking about. And some of my more private friends wonder why I bother.

Yet, I do feel like sharing. I’m just that kind of person. I see someone famous passed away today (as I write this it’s Hal Holbrook). I feel like sharing memories or thoughts about him. I see the state of emergency in Tokyo has been extended another month. I feel like talking about that with other people who live here – and the impact on the Olympics and summer travel. It’s tax season. I feel like sharing some info I have about how it’s done differently this year at the tax office (you need reservations via LINE). I heard something funny and feel like telling friends about it. I have cute new pictures of (or gripes about) Pao I’d like to share.

Where can I continue to do that and still reach my circle of friends (and friends of friends)? Unfortunately that place seems to be FaceBook. Where we can be disconnected without cause or notice. Where we don’t really own our content. Where we can lose our ability to send and receive messages, and lose possibly important private conversations.

I’m trying to find other alternatives and wonder – will anybody else be willing to join me? Another place besides FaceBook where people who are your friends feel it’s worth going through the trouble to sign up and visit and participate?

Messaging with me going forward

Even if I’m let back in I will stop using Facebook Messenger. It’s too risky I feel. If you are trying to reach me, there is always tried-and-true email. I’m doug(at) If you are an iPhone/iPad/Mac user, you can also use my email address to reach me via the standard Message app. If you are an Android or iPhone user, you can use the most popular messaging app in Japan, LINE. It’s also available around the world. Install it from the App Store or Google Play. You can “add a friend” and search for me by ID or phone number. My ID there is taohao.

Or you can scan my QR code and add me as a LINE friend. Please tell me who you are when adding me.

I’m also on WhatsApp, but I intend to stop using that. They are owned by Facebook, and starting February 8 will start sharing all sorts of info between WhatsApp and Facebook. Who knows, maybe I’ll be disconnected there as well.

I might also stop using Instagram – also owned by Facebook! The only reason I joined was because it made it easier to share photos with both Instagram and Facebook users. But now I don’t trust them so much.

I used to do most of my sharing via this blog. Look how far back entries go! Here I control the content. With a Neighbors social network also, people can have their own blogs and communities. Let me know if you or your organization is interested in setting up a site. But I think that’s not going to grab most of my social network friends. And friends of friends. And long-lost friends who I found again on Facebook. And relatives I didn’t know I had.

Facebook is an interesting experience. If I’m allowed back in I’m not saying I will shut down my account. But I will definitely download my content. And I will not use it as much as I have been, and will try to work on something different, yet still stay in contact with all the people I’ve enjoyed communicating with all these years.

More later when I think through things more… your thoughts are welcome.