The Purge of 2020

So the other day I woke up early and as was my normal habit, I grab my cellphone and check my email and of course, Facebook. I don’t post directly there much anymore, as it’s way too easy to get involved in arguments or let my worldly emotions get the better of me. Overcoming my inherent need to correct nonsense is a daily struggle it seems. That said, I was greeted with a familiar alert from Facebook’s automated/corporate/snowflakes in jackboots.

Back in July of 2016 – now go back there with me folks – I posted a satirical photo which identified just how quickly friends and strangers were proving the validity of Godwin’s law in nearly every political argument. I’ve long since learned to avoid getting political on Facebook (occasionally I fail at that, but I’m only Human). But Godwin’s Law states “if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends.

Now thinking back to 2016, it didn’t take more than a few words of disagreement until Hitler was referenced. It reached such a level of absurdity that I posted this…

4 years later, whatever algorithm or basement minion Facebook uses to protect the gentle sensibilities of its users decided to flag that image which I had uploaded and forgotten about as hate speech.

I get an ominous warning from Facebook, saying I can accept their decision or challenge it. I just clicked Accept and moved on. What followed was a warning that additional violations could get me banned from Facebook altogether. and that I was now subject to a 30 day ban from posting or commenting because of a satirical image I posted 4 years ago.

The definition of satire is: “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” I would believe it is pretty obvious to most that such an image pretty much fits that definition to a T. Think of the mindset of people – especially in social media – back in 2016, even today – has it really changed all that much?

Now this isn’t the first time Facebook has pulled this on me. Maybe once or twice a year they’ll ding me for some post from the past 10+ years of content I’ve shared. Not every time will they even show me what I posted either. Last year I was sitting in paradise during a vacation on Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos and decided to check my phone. Someone cherry picked a post from maybe 2-5 years earlier, reported it, and suggested that I was suicidal.

What followed were alerts, warnings, and near endless spam from suicide help lines for a post I made years prior. I completely went off. Long story short, I posted that whoever reported this needs to rethink their concerns, as if its bothered them so greatly they should have reached out to me directly. If someone you care for is suicidal – YOU TALK TO THEM. It’s not a comfortable topic, but I will admit that there were a few dark points in my life where nobody did as I suffered in silence. In the end – as is obvious – I didn’t go through with any of it, but I could only imagine how it could have helped me heal had even one single “friend” reached out directly, just to say hello.

At this point in my social media existence, I rarely post anything in social media (this blog doesn’t count, I’ve been posting here for over 20 years) that isn’t food or humor related. My social distancing started some time before the current usage of the term as I decided to back away from social media altogether. For someone who is lonely and depressed, even knowing that 83% of what is posted is cultivated and massaged imagery of people only posting the best of the “look at me” generation – it simply was not good for my mental health. So now I’m thinking “ok, if I’m going to be randomly judged for things I don’t even remember doing, maybe I ought to quit altogether?”

What really added to my general level of annoyance is that Facebook’s rules are not absolute. I recall one case a few years back where someone had posted a painting of a police officer getting their throat cut. I reported it. Facebook reviewed the post and found that it didn’t violate *any* of its rules. Another case, I’m sitting there sipping my coffee, looking at cat memes, and was shown graphic photos of the results of an abortion. Regardless of my stance on that topic – I post satire and get banned. I still don’t know what post made me look suicidal. Yet had I posted a dead baby, or graphic violence against police officers – I would have been fine.

Most of my friends are geographically dispersed at this point. Getting together or simply chatting – especially during the current pandemic and even other events – Facebook makes it easy to connect, it’s a necessary evil. Still – there’s no illusion here. Facebook does not offer an open arena of ideas. While people can freely share their opinions and argue against them – all it takes is a tweak to an algorithm, a busybody on my friends list, or perhaps an overzealous employee – to really ramp things up or shut down any dissent that doesn’t fit a randomly generated point of view.

That’s why I decided to make use of a tool for Chrome called “Social Book Post Manager” which allows me to effectively purge everything I’ve ever posted to Facebook. As much as I enjoy the ‘memories’ feature to go back and visit days gone by, the things which are truly important to me still live in between my ears. It’s a small price to pay to further free myself from the nonsense undulating throughout social media.

Prior to starting the process, I downloaded all of my (7.1GB total) data from Facebook, and then I began letting the tool do the work for me. I hold no illusions of my data not still living on indefinitely on random servers owned by Facebook, but also knowing that at least what I share publicly – or with my friends – is more current with my present state of mind is a big relief. Those who know me, know my mind, know my opinion, and I can still share and discuss with them directly without leaving an exponentially increasing footprint behind me that anyone can attack me for out of the blue… which I’m sad to say is really the new normal since the advent of social media.

Eventually this pandemic and all that has transpired will become a memory – but at least I can do my part to control the narrative of my own life, while leaving the judgment and arguments to everyone else.

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