Angry and frustrated at Facebook
As a blogger I try hard to avoid rants and maintain some journalistic impartiality. Part of it is the result of years of working as a journalist and part of it is my own consciousness of the fact that I control my blog, my word is that of god here and it is all too easy to turn it into a soapbox where I work out my pet peeves.


So here I am, about to break my own rules. Why? Well, because just a couple of weeks ago there I was on the side of the divide that’s labeled ‘average end-user’ as opposed to ‘online marketer’ and all I wanted to do was share some pics I had taken of Zug with some friends.

I first went to G+ which has become my social network of choice ever since it started out and clicked on ‘Photos’ on the left hand side menu and then ‘Instant Upload’. Since I had used an Android phone to take the photographs in the first place they were all there waiting for me on G+. All I had to do was to create a new album to put them in, share that album privately with my friends and then select a few of the most spectacular pictures to share publicly with the stream.

Time taken for this task: 72 seconds exactly. It was the ease with which I had accomplished it which then led to my downfall for having been lulled into a false sense of security I thought I might as well upload a couple of picture to Facebook where I still have the odd friend or two who has not yet made the jump to Google Plus.

And so began my Odyssey.

We Don’t Know Who You Are

The first inkling that something was perhaps not right was when I logged onto my Facebook account by clicking on the Facebook shortcut on my desktop (I stay logged on all the time for convenience) and got this interesting message: "Your account is temporarily locked. We do not recognize the device you are using. Please answer a few security questions to keep your account safe."

Account is Locked by Facebook 

Facebook apparently was having trouble recognizing the device I was using. Now this was news to me. When I travel I use a Toshiba netbook, powerful enough to give me the computing power I need when on the go but small enough to avoid creating neck strain when I am trekking through airports.

It’s the same device I have been using all year and I had used it to log onto Facebook, on separate occasions this summer from Prague, Rome, Madrid, Athens and Shanghai.

No problem, I naively thought. Facebook is being extra cautious these days. Since the IPO they are trying to be an all grown-up type of business that takes the security of my account seriously. It has probably noticed the change of IP and wants me to verify that it is me.

I clicked to continue the verification process and that’s when things got interesting really quickly.

Facebook Verify Your Account by recognising some random pictures. 

Time to Jump Through Some Hoops

Facebook, in its wisdom, has decided that the best verification process is to present you with photographs of your friends and ask you to identify them by name. Naturally enough this is not a problem except that instead of photographs of your friends it pulls photographs from their albums or posts and then asks you to name which friend posted what.

Now I do not know about you but I rarely keep tabs on friends so closely that I can claim encyclopedic knowledge of every photo album they have created. I looked at the pictures presented uncertain whether it was a joke or some kind of insult.

I could imagine the Facebook account security team sitting around a table in Menlo Park telling each other with smug smiles that since Facebook was the way to connect with your family and friends there simply would be no way you could have no idea what they were posting in their photo albums, I mean if you didn’t that would make you some kind of disinterested deadbeat using the network only superfluously for the odd message, which was clearly not the way it should be used, right?

So I looked at the three images presented and the multiple choice of names under them, and then admitted defeat and skipped to the next three and then the next three, without any apparent luck.

By then almost fifteen minutes had passed and I was beginning to feel frustration rising. All I wanted to do was post three pictures, just three, so my friends could see them.

I closed the browser down. Looked at the desktop. Unwilling to admit defeat I clicked on the Facebook shortcut once more.

This time things became even more interesting.

Now We Are Going to Torment You

This time the Facebook screen asked me first to verify that I was human. I did, inputting the captcha and hoping that maybe, this time, that was it. I would post my pics and go out and enjoy a cup of coffee in the fading Swiss sunshine.

Facebook asks me to confirm I am not a machine 

I clicked submit and unfortunately all hope was dashed. I was presented again with the infuriating message regarding my account being locked and the device I was using not being recognized.

Again, like a fool, I went through the infuriating verification method where I tried my damndest to divine just who of my friends would post pictures of playing cards on their photo albums and who might have a flag of Iran. This time, I decided, I was not going to skip the screens, I was going to have a go. And so I did.

As you’d expect, I failed. There simply was no way of reconciling any of the 200-odd people I have on my personal Facebook profile with the various images of rubber duckies, classic cars and stylized objets d'art that were appearing before me.

At that point when I had just about given up and had lost 35 irretrievable minutes of my life I was thrown a lifeline. There, at the bottom of the page, was a link. “Click here” it said, “for alternative verification methods”.

I did.

You know that moment when you are right on the edge? You have reached a sort of point where you’ve wasted time and accomplished nothing and you are about to give up in frustration and suddenly there is a glimmer of hope? It’s like running for the bus as it begins to take off and instead of giving up you yell and wave your arms and put on an extra burst of speed and the bus driver seems to hear you because the bus does not stop but doesn’t speed up either, so you draw level with it and all you need now is for it to stay at that speed just a second longer and for the back door to open.

And then it speeds up … and leaves you floundering behind.

Well, Facebook has perfected it into an art form.

The message read in big bold letters: "Please confirm your identity." and underneath enclosed in a red box: "No verification methods are currently available. Please come back later."

Facebook Says No Go  

I screamed. I was in a hotel suite on the northeast corner of the fifth floor so I am pretty sure no one else heard.

I slammed my computer shut, thoughts of a coffee forgotten and headed for the nearest bar.

Afterwards I wondered why I do this to myself. Why do I hang onto the forlorn hope that one day, maybe, Facebook will behave like its users matter and act like it does too.

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