Facebook blocked me because of a cartoon penis
I am Mark Splinter. After years of being told that nazi freedom of speech is protected on facebook, I was finally blocked for posting an ASCII penis. This is the diary of my horrific ordeal.
20:05
Facebook is asking me to confirm my password.
20:06
Facebook tells me that one of my posts has been deleted. It was a penis drawn with ASCII characters. LOL.
20:07
I make a screenshot, thinking how hilarious it would be to post the screenshot on facebook.
Then I realise I can't post it, because it is a screenshot of the post that was deleted, so it will be deleted again.
20:08
I click Continue. Facebook tells me I am blocked from facebook for 12 hours.
FACEBOOK! HOW COULD YOU?? I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS!!!!
My world falls apart. I can't live without facebook for 12 hours. There’s a seriously hot debate going on about graffiti and I can’t take part. I decide - I must facebook about this injustice immediately.
20:09
I realise I can't facebook about this injustice, because I am blocked by facebook.
20:10
...
20:11
I don't have any unread emails. All my staff have left the office. How the hell am I supposed to socialise? I get bored very quickly.
20:12
I got bored.
20:14
I remember that in the nineties I used to phone people when I was bored. Luckily my smartphone has a "Phone" app which you can use to phone people who have a phone.
I call Romas because I know he likes penises and he will probably find this story amusing. My phone makes this strange ringing sound for a while and then I hear Romas saying hello. It's his real voice! Coming out of my phone! Technology is amazing. But the "Phone" app has no way of putting smilies in my sentences. Anyway, I can manage without that. Life without facebook doesn't feel too bad. Maybe I will get used to it. Maybe I will just delete my account forever.
20:15
I realise that Romas is really busy. He doesn't really have time to talk right now. But the problem with the "Phone" app is that he must say something anyway. Now. I am waiting. He can't just ignore me for ten minutes and then type "LOL". This is really awkward. He says it's no problem, but I can hear in his voice - it's a problem. I apologise and say goodbye.
20:18
Bored again. I open a new Word document but it's just blank. Boring. A computer without facebook is like a vegetarian sausage. It looks the same but it’s not worth touching.
20:19
I call Dalia, she always likes facebook chatting about facebook theory, and she also likes penises. I tell her the story. Somehow it doesn't seem so interesting telling it the second time. I realise I probably can't phone 100 people and tell them this story. That would take a long time and be very boring.
Dalia sounds depressed. I ask if she is depressed. She says she isn't. She says something I don't hear properly. I ask her to repeat it. She repeats it. I try to think of an answer but it's not very funny. I need more time to think. This "Phone" app totally sucks.
20:21
I smile to myself at the irony of being blocked from facebook for posting a cartoon of a penis in a thread about illegal graffiti. Thank God it wasn’t an ASCII Mohammed.
20:22
I remember that a long time ago, my company made a facebook app which allowed people to send their friends a cartoon penis, and thousands of penises were sent without any problems. And these were proper drawings, not just ASCII. Our penises went insanely viral and we didn’t get blocked until they changed the API and we couldn’t be bothered to fix it. We chose facebook as a platform because it requires identification and allows opting out of stupid app posts. Seems fair enough. But now I probably won’t fix it, because it’s “pornography”.
20:24
Seriously though, an ASCII penis? I have reported about 30 disgusting posts to facebook, such as "all jews should be thrown in the oven" and "gays should be in a hospital on an island" etc. I am on a lot of human rights forums. You get the idea. From those 30 reported posts, only four were deleted, leaving several horrible people facebooking freely about their genocidal plans. Compared to that, I didn't think a cartoon penis was a problem.
20:25
Fuck it, if I can't facebook and there's no work to do, I might as well finally go to lunch.
I lock the office and start to climb the hill home.
After 10 metres I get bored. I get my phone out to check my facebook. My phone tells me I am blocked from facebook.
20:27
I remember another cure for boredom: alcohol. I take a left down Algirdo and head for the pub.
20:28
Walking alone, in the dark, on the rainy streets of Vilnius, I get philosophical. I have now been off facebook for half an hour. And I feel totally different.
I feel completely cut off from the city I love, the city I am actually walking and breathing in.
I don't know what's going on. Somewhere in the internet, friends' posts and PM’s are popping up in a database I can't see. People are asking questions I can't answer. People need help I can't give. People are writing complete nonsense and I can't argue back. This totally sucks. Someone is wrong on the internet, but I don't even know who they are. Someone posted something hilarious, but I can't laugh about it or share it with my friends. Someone is having a meetup in Pianoman bar, but I can't remember if it's today or tomorrow.
If I want to contact someone, I have to use that crappy "Phone" app and actually use my voice to ask them what they are doing, even if they already facebooked about it. I don't even know what country half my friends are in, and I don't have their phone numbers anyway.
This totally sucks.
I start to realise how much business I do on facebook. Three years ago - almost none. Now - almost all. What if facebook banned me permanently? I honestly don't know how I would find new clients. Take business cards to a conference? Use fucking Linkedin? This is scary. I'm sorry facebook, I will never post ASCII penises again, I promise.
20:35
I'm in the pub. Alone. The waiter is busy. I am bored. I get out my phone to check my facebook.
20:36
My phone tells me I am blocked from facebook.
20:38
I order a beer and some pasta. I’m going to have to wait for it, aren’t I. I check my emails. 3 spams and a notification from Linkedin that a total stranger endorsed me for Online Marketing. Great. If only they knew I was blocked from facebook for posting an ASCII penis.
20:39
I’m getting very philosophical now. Maybe I have been wrong all these years. Maybe I shouldn’t facebook so much. Maybe I don’t need it. Maybe I am a total penis.
20:42
And what about all the people who aren’t on facebook? How can they manage with only 10 real friends and a few acquaintances from work? How do they tell people it’s their birthday? Where do they have their discussions, Google+?!?! How are they connected to ANYTHING?
And what about the people who don’t even have facebook because they live in a place where the internet and the electricity is broken? They don’t even have a laptop? No wonder they are struggling, while I am sitting in a restaurant waiting for a beer, feeling depressed because I am blocked from facebook for 12 hours in the country with the fastest internet in the world.
20:45
The beer arrives. It tastes good. I could probably quit facebook and become an alcoholic quite easily. But I am now starting to realise how amazing facebook is, and how much it’s silently replaced a dozen other stupid things I don’t need any more, including my previous hometown.
I realise that when I am not blocked, I have a way to communicate with hundreds of people all over the world, and it only takes a few seconds. I realise how many great friendships and business relationships have started from a chat on facebook or a controversial facebook post which somebody liked. I realise how many of my old friends I left behind in the UK and then rediscovered ten years later, thanks to facebook. I can watch my cousin’s kids grow up in America.
I realise how many old clients get back to me with new work, via facebook. I realise how much I have changed and developed my own politics and ethics and view of the universe, thanks to facebook and the amazing influential people I find there. I realise how many real-world situations are boring, and why we get our phones out in the middle of a conversation. It’s because the conversation is not as interesting as facebook. Instead of hating facebook addicts, maybe we should try to be a bit more interesting in real life.
20:46
I am bored again. I open Google docs on my phone and create a new blank document. I start writing this article with my thumbs. In a few hours, I will be allowed back on facebook, and I will post this for you, so you and hundreds of other people can know what I am thinking without having to actually move your body to my location or make an annoying ringing sound in my pocket. I think that’s awesome. Sorry you had to wait.
Mark Splinter, Vilnius, 2013.
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