Sunday, April 10, 2011

On birthdays

It's my birthday today!

On Facebook, when it's your birthday, you are showered with wishes from just about everyone on your contact list. That's a whole lot of email notifications.

This year, I'm not on Facebook (not by choice). Yet, I have been feeling just as much love, if not more. Why? My Twitter friends, upon learning of my date of birth - since Twitter doesn't tell everyone it's your birthday, you have to mention it first! - have been sending birthday wishes my way. And I am basking in the love.

I feel so incredibly blessed to be who I am, where I am, and have the love and friendship (and even acquaintanceship!) of so many wonderful people. It's a beautiful day and my school work is slowly but surely progressing. I have a follow up doctor's appointment this week to deal with my recent health issues. And I'm having a birthday bash next weekend, when my current school deadlines are more or less taken care of. How can I not be happy?!

It's easy to be critical of our selves and overanalyse every little action we take, whether its consequences are positive or negative. It's easy to feel bummed or frustrated or nostalgic - and I've felt all three this week. And that's okay! It's okay to feel under the weather. It's hard work to turn it around and smile instead of frown. My life philosophy of finding the positive in even the little things - like the sun shining - makes that task a whole lot more enjoyable.

I am thankful for all my experiences so far, and for those to come, because I know that, good or bad, they will make me a better person. And isn't that the point of life? To grow, develop and flow into a "better" person? It's not about the accumulation of wealth or stuff - though I do love my "things" and would be devastated if I lost the most precious of them. Still, I am aware that these are luxuries. Yes, even my comfy walkable boots.

So today, to celebrate the date of my birth, I have a simple request. Please, take any money you would spend on a present for me and donate it to someone who needs it a whole lot more than me. By contributing to the World Partnership Walk, you are helping me bring the hope and joy that fills my life to little boys and girls (and older ones too!) across the world. On June 12, 2011, I will walk in Major's Hill Park in Ottawa to symbolically represent the work that some of the poorest people in the world need to do daily, all day, just to be able to do the things I take for granted, like having a sip of water or opening the fridge door and finding it full of ingredients. Or turning up the heat when it gets cold at night, or the AC when it gets too hot in the summer.

So please, instead of treating me for my Birthday, let's put an end to global poverty together. That would be the best present ever. Click here to sponsor me for the World Partnership Walk, join my team by registering here, or create your own fundraising team here!

If you haven't heard me talk about the Walk before, you can read some of my blog posts on the subject here and here, and read up about Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the non-profit non-denominational organization behind the cross-cutting programmes that 100% of the money you donate will fund. Discover why the World Partnership Walk is more than a cause, and then gather your pennies, loonies, or $100 bills and make me the happiest girl in the whole world today:

Friday, April 01, 2011

On my (disabled) Facebook account #FacebookUnfairToNailaJ

As you may or may not have noticed, I am no longer on Facebook. This was not my decision.

Sometime between 2am and 10am on Monday, March 28, 2011, Facebook disabled my account. I'm still not sure why or how or when this happened, since I didn't get a warning or even a notification of any kind. Instead, on Monday morning, when I tried to log-in to my account, I was met with this message:
Account Disabled
Your account has been disabled. If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page here.
Ironically, the "here" link wasn't actually working, so I painstakingly navigated to this page, which told me:
Disabled - Ineligible
Upon investigation, we have determined that you are ineligible to use Facebook. Unfortunately, for safety and security reasons, we cannot provide additional information as to why your account was disabled. This decision is final.
Sounds ominous, doesn't it? I'm not quite sure how I was ineligible to use Facebook. I'm over the age of 13, I hadn't posted any spam or scam links (not even the "Sports commentator shows her boobs on TV" virus video that had been going around). I don't have a fake account, or multiple accounts, or a business account as a personal profile. I hadn't done anything different than I usually do, so none of the reasons Facebook Help pointed me to apply. And it's not like I had received any "warnings" from Facebook prior to my account being disabled, which apparently means that it was a "severe" security violation, according to this.

Finally, I found this disabled report form which I only knew to look for because I pay attention to these things. Did I mention I always read the terms and conditions for websites like these? I'm one of the few people I know who is actually fully aware of all the clauses in my insurance policies. I filled out and sent the form on Monday around noon, which is also about when I replied to their "confirm your identity" email, which told me that my case would be put in a queue and there was nothing I could do but wait. Fine.

Let me point out that I am an ideal Facebook user. If you're one of my Facebook friends, you know this to be true. I post a lot, encourage people to sign up or direct them to little-used features, and I report spammers and abusers. My career path involves using social networking so I'm all over the new tools and trends. Well, except Facebook Pages because I'd rather not get robbed while I'm out on the town. I'm the main administrator for the "Fans of Wil Wheaton" group, for which I received an unofficial stamp of approval from Wil Wheaton himself. I am also an admin on the World Partnership Walk Ottawa fan page and on the Macdonald Festival fan page. None of this is illegal, according to Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Go ahead. Skim through it. I haven't violated any clauses.

Unless someone (or several people) reported me for spam or abuse (multiple times), I'm not quite sure how my account was flagged or why. Even then, reporting my account would be an act of malice and cyberbullying, which, according to Facebook's own policies, should have that user banned from using the site.

It's been 5 days. So far, I have not received any form of personalised communication from Facebook. In fact, other than the "please confirm your identity" email, I haven't heard a single thing from Facebook. Zero. Nada. Zilch. In the mean time, I'm barred from starting a new account because that would be a violation of Facebook's policies. Meanwhile, I can't do my job, do my volunteer work, and even, in some cases, my school work (where I use my Facebook account to "connect" with other online tools to access their information). Plus, multi-tasking with Facebook helps me clear my head when I'm dealing with complex ideas during my researching and writing process. As a result, I have been LESS productive during this busy time than I would have had my Facebook account still been active.

In order to try to expedite the process, I sent in the "disabled by error" form once more yesterday, filling in the content box with an abridged version of the information I've presented here. I also pointed them to #FacebookUnfairToNailaJ, a clever idea from @tfromdtown, who suggested I get everyone I know to trend that hashtag. That hasn't quite happened but several people in my Twitter network have been using the tag to express their concern or discontent at my profile still being disabled, and, worse, still not knowing why and when I can get it back.

Some examples:
@ToulasTake: @NailaJ WHAT?? You should create a #FacebookUnfairToNailaJgroup and ask ppl to join!! Oh, wait. You don't have a FB account. ;) #ISoSuck

Clearly, the impact of my account being disabled reaches beyond just me. I have effectively been disconnected from family members on the other side of the world because I never bothered to get an updated email address - we were Facebook friends. They can no longer reach me either. And on a local level, I can no longer interact with certain Kingston-area businesses whose main web presence is on Facebook. I can't check to see if my friend got the birthday card I sent her. I can't even wish a Happy Birthday to some of my friends and family. And when my birthday rolls around next week, they won't be able to send me their wishes either. I don't even know how many people will actually be showing up to my birthday dinner because by disabling my account, Facebook also disabled my event, which means my friends haven't been able to adjust their RSVPs (as I have been repeatedly reminded) and I can't make proper reservations.

Yes, it is sad, to a certain extent, that I have come to depend so much on Facebook. The good news is, I'm not the only one. The bad news is, without a Facebook account, you are very much excluded from life in 2011. What frustrates me the most, though, is that I haven't gotten even a hint of a response from Facebook and there is no other way to contact them. I'm in social media limbo and I am powerless to do anything to get myself out of it.

A Twitter friend mentioned that this happened to her in the fall and her account was restored in 3 days. Well, Facebook, it's been 5 days. I'm waiting.