Screen grab of official-looking false alarm I received, Dec. 9, 2022

This is embarrassing: After getting repeated warnings, like the one shown above, that if I didn’t turn on “Facebook Protect” I would be locked out of my Facebook account Tuesday, Dec. 20, I made copies of the files I wanted to save, said my goodbyes and made preparations to move my social media presence to Ordinary Time.

Then came the big day. Ta da! Nothing happened.

Welp, almost nothing.

Instead of the blue-on-white lockout message, I got an official-looking splash page asking me to sign up for FB and Instagram at one fell swoop. While I was trying to figure what in blue blazes that was all about, it faded out like the Cheshire cat or Marley’s ghost, and I was back into FB. As if nothing had happened. Maybe nothing had.

Which leads me to three conclusions:

  • The lockout notices were probably a hoax, imitating a real Facebook Protect initiative in December 2021, and I was right not to click on the fade-away inviting me to … do whatever. Even if they were kosher, which remains a possibility, they do not inspire confidence in Facebook and/or its management.
  • The hoax, if that’s what it was, is more proof that Silicon Valley whiz kids simply do not have the attitudes or skill set to develop a communications medium. They may not fully realize it, but that’s what a social media platform is — and evermore shall be.
  • I was right to reevaluate my use of social media, and my plan to do more with Ordinary Time is a good one. More about that later.

Here’s why I suspect a hoax. A series of keyword searches failed to turn up any references to a major push to get more FB users into “Facebook Protect” more recent than March of this year, when I was locked out the first time. But I did find a notice in Tom’s Guide, a web publication that evaluates tech products (updated Oct. 7 but obviously published back in the spring). It quoted Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security for Facebook and its parent company Meta, as saying the big push in March, when I was locked out, was a followup to a bigger push a year ago. Said senior editor Paul Wagenseil:

Facebook Protect, launched in 2018, was originally meant to be used by political “candidates, their campaigns and elected officials,” as a Facebook paper explaining the feature(opens in new tab) states. 

“Now it’s being expanded to political activists and journalists, as a Meta blog post(opens in new tab) authored by Gleicher back in December [2021] said” [links in the original].

Tom’s Guide added, and this was my key takeaway from the whole thing:

Granted, all of this really does sound like a phishing scam. As a rule, we advise people not to click on links embedded in email or social-media messages. It’s also possible that real crooks may now send out fake Facebook Protect notifications as part of real phishing scams.

Yep-per. I’ll that’s exactly what I’ve been dealing with here.

Or it might just be FB being FB. I’ve had other FB friends tell me they’ve been inexplicably locked out of FB accounts, then reinstated without a word of explanation. “I never got a notice like you did,” said one. “It just QUIT! Then it started again.” I suspect that’s the kind of thing that happens when the same dude is the chairman, chief executive officer, and controlling shareholder of a platform with 9.86 billion active daily users (as of July 2022). In other words, Mark Zuckerberg giveth, and Mark Zuckerberg taketh away. Arbitrary and capricious be the name of Mark Zuckerberg.

Which leads me to my third dot-point: Whatever it was, this little fandango with FB led me to reconsider the amount of time I spend on social media.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I have two main takeaways from the process. One is that I’ve been spending way too much time lately on Mark Zuckerberg’s playtoy, and my writing has suffered for it. My directory of privately published stories on Ordinary Time — not the one you see displayed on my home page but the one that includes posts I haven’t uplinked yet — is littered with half-completed items.

So over the weekend when I still thought I would be locked out Dec. 20 (instead of some point, maybe, yet to be determined), I decided to focus more on the blog. I’ve been blogging since 2006, and all of my social media activity has ended up resembling the blogs I maintained for my classes at Benedictine, a roots music blog called Hogfiddle (named after the mountain dulcimer), and a mass comm blog I called The Mackerel Wrapper with readings, class assignments and commentary on the news. Hogfiddle also served as a research blog, an “electronic filing cabinet where I can tuck away information that would get lost otherwise.”  

Fast forward to the 2020s: I’ve been retired for 10 years now, and my interests have changed some. But my blog is still an electronic filing cabinet, and my FB feed has morphed into something like the old class blog at Benedictine. That’s overloading the medium, I’ve decided. Worse, FB favors quick takes and snarky remarks instead of the kind of thoughtful analysis I prefer. So I’m going to take the great Dec. 20 lockout scam as an opportunity to hit the reset button.

So if all goes as planned, I’ll post less to FB and concentrate more on developing Ordinary Time as more of a personal blog with an eclectic mixture of spirituality, politics, media criticism, hymnody, folk music and bright, shiny objects that attract my attention. I’ll share links to FB — my stats on WordPress suggest one-third to half my page views are referred by FB and the rest by search engines — but until (or unless) Mark Zuckerberg and the whiz kids in Silicon Valley grow up, I’m going to focus on other, more productive writing projects.

[Uplinked Dec. 22, 2022]

One thought on “Well, apparently I’m still on FB but this latest false alarm has me hitting the reset button on how I use social media

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