The Book of Faces* informed me today that my account is “restricted.”
*Calling it this to avoid tripping any algorithms since I no longer have any idea what is or isn’t permissible on that platform.
The offense (to use the term loosely) which gave rise to this restriction was my response to a commenter who claimed that covid is no big deal and he knows because he just had a couple days of sniffles. Rather than pointing out the 700,000 people who have died from this virus in the past 19 months, I merely responded “So far” and provided a link to an article from the Centers for Disease Control about after-effects of covid a/k/a “long covid” which, according to said article, can surface several months after one has been ill. I didn’t call him an idiot or a fool, nor did I wish anything ill on him. I simply pointed out a resource that disagreed with his blithe view of a deadly virus.
Nonetheless, based on this post, my account has been restricted.
In all fairness, I don’t know what this means, because the Book doesn’t bother to explain. It gives you the opportunity to disagree, after which it tells you it has fewer reviewers than usual and may not get back to you.
This, I could have told them.
You see, I just came off a one-week suspension after I offered an opinion about a person who committed horrific animal abuse and how karma would be appropriate. This (admittedly unwise) comment earned me a suspension for inciting violence, presumably because something in my terse post tripped the algorithm. (For the record: I have yet to encounter anyone who disagrees with my opinion about the fate that should befall this bastard.)
This time, however, all the Book said was that my post “violated community standards.” I have no idea what these community standards are, especially when I see commenters ripping viciously into each other all over the Book. What I have figured out is that trolls are very good at shutting down opposing viewpoints by reporting them as offensive, which is problematic because it leaves only the erroneous comments standing with no one pointing out the obvious flaws.
The other odd part is that the Book didn’t tell me exactly what aspect of my account is restricted. I can still like, comment, and post. Since these are really the only things people want to do there, I don’t know what they believe they’ve restricted.
I tried to find the Book’s appeals process, to no avail. There’s something called an oversight board that can be petitioned once the appeals process is complete, but if I can’t find out how to appeal, this does little good. As someone who has spent decades wending her way through complex statutory and regulatory provisions on a broad variety of topics, I find it very odd that it’s easier to parse out the Code of Federal Regulations than to find out why a social media platform didn’t like my link to a CDC article.
In any case, it’s possible that my days on the Book are numbered. This wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t that my account includes not only my personal page, but also my author page, Tuxedo Cat Press’s page, and a page for my street’s artists to post about their events. It’s one thing not to be able to comment about The New Yorker’s latest cartoon; it’s quite another to be cut off from helpful author/publisher groups like Wide for the Win and The Business of Being a Writer.
We all know the Big Z has had his own problems this week. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t satisfying to hear about the Book’s outage and the whistleblower even as I sat back, able to read but not to like, comment, or post. I’m sure Z doesn’t care about the likes of me. He’s set this enormous machine in motion. Where it will end, God only knows.
But here’s what I know: the people who urge authors and entrepreneurs to set up email lists rather than relying on social media are absolutely correct.
Last year when I was struggling to set up an email list, I read over and over that relying exclusively (or even primarily) on social media is a terrible idea because it’s out of my control. By contrast, if I can email people directly, it doesn’t matter what the Book, Twitter, or any other platform does. If Congress decides tomorrow that the Book must be broken up into little bitty pieces—not unlike the Ma Bell breakup of so long ago—I’ll still be able to contact my readers directly, sending updates and deals and news of all sorts directly to their inboxes.
Note that the email newsletter list is not the same as this blog. If you’re a regular reader of my blog—first of all, thank you! Second, remember that you have various ways to subscribe to the blog. If you have a WordPress account, you can follow that way; if not, you can elect to have new blog posts emailed to you simply by entering your email address in the box on the left-hand side of every page of this website. I routinely share blog posts to Twitter as well as to the Book. (I haven’t quite figured out how to share it on Instagram, but when I do, I will—that is, assuming the Big Z lets me.)
Bear in mind, though, that this only gets you the blog–it doesn’t connect to the newsletter. (If there’s a way to do that, it’s far beyond my technological capabilities.) If you want to receive email newsletters from me about other things—including my upcoming novella, My Brother, Romeo—you’ll need to subscribe to my newsletter. As my newsletter readers can tell you, I don’t flood your inbox with a bunch of gratuitous and/or repetitious content. Rather, I write when I have something to say.
For example, the next email I’m planning to send out will be about cover designs for My Brother, Romeo. Newsletter readers will have the opportunity weigh in on which design they prefer. I will not be sharing the options on any social media platform. Only newsletter readers will see the choices ahead of time, and only newsletter readers will be able to comment. (Also, when you subscribe, you’ll get a free short story as a thank-you!)
So that’s something to think about as we head into a glorious autumn weekend: how much of our lives depends on forces we can’t control, and what we can do to try to wrest a tiny bit of that control back into our own hands. I can’t control the Big Z or his Book, but at least for the moment, I can find other ways to communicate with you.
Which was always the point anyway.