2021 Social Media Purges: What Happens When Regular People Get Swept Up in Historic Events?
Some of you may have noticed as of Friday, January 15, 2021 you can no longer follow me on Facebook—that the link from my website is broken and I no longer have a Facebook presence. Ironically (or not) I am now getting a small taste of what it must have felt like to some of my characters back in 1861 as they became swept up in the momentous events of the day through no fault of their own.
But before I talk about what happened with Facebook last week, I would like to take you back to the beginning of my current “journey” writing the Road to the Breaking series …
I began researching and plot-outlining for “the book” in the spring of 2015, so from a U.S. political perspective we are now on our third president since I started. Clearly, whatever is or isn’t in the book has no correlation to current political events—unless by “current” you mean 1860!
If you have read Road to the Breaking you will know that a major theme in the book is race relations—how they actually were in the 1860s for most Americans versus how they should have been or could have been, as represented by the attitudes and actions of my main character, Captain Nathaniel Chambers. I thought this would be a timely story in the sense of trying to portray a positive example of how people of different cultures, backgrounds, nationalities, economic levels, and races could get along, and treat each other with respect and dignity, while generally trying to make the world a better place. And—in the form of the antagonistic pro-slavery cadre—portraying the unsavory image of what the opposite attitude looked like.
Back in 2015 social media was already taking off, but you could have probably put me in the category of “disinterested.” Not that I had anything specific against it, I just felt it wasn’t a good use of my time, which was already in short supply, especially with my new writing endeavor underway (while still working my “day job.”) So, until very recently, I had never had a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media account.
This past year, having finished writing what is now books 1 – 4 of the series (and parts of book 5) I decided to get serious about trying to promote my book, and toward that end hired the experts at New Shelves Books (big shout out to them!) With their guidance the books have been revised, re-edited, thoroughly proofread, and repackaged into the form they are in today (they look and feel 100% better than the original version!) We then laid out a promotional campaign that included setting up my Facebook and Instagram accounts and posting memes and articles promoting the book and providing general interesting information about various aspects of life at the time of the American Civil War. We also planned to start a Facebook ad campaign in February to begin pushing the series.
And to give some perspective, before I ever hooked up with New Shelves, everything I had read about being an independent author said that Facebook was far and away the most effective way to promote your book and to get sales. So I was totally on board with that concept when we started up my Facebook and Instagram accounts in December 2020. Everything was going along beautifully, our posts were being well received and we were steadily gaining followers, until the events of January 6th at the US Capitol triggered a series of purges by the large social media vendors.
Somehow, without posting a single comment about anything other than my book (not even a cute kitty photo!) my Facebook account was suspended due to “not following Community Standards.” And though you can link to a very lengthy general document describing those standards, they won’t tell you which specific standard or post they considered to be in violation. There is an appeal process, which we immediately filed, but within a day they rejected our appeal and stated that my account had been permanently disabled and further stated, “We have already reviewed this decision and it can’t be reversed.” Given the appeal was submitted late Friday afternoon and the rejection was received on Saturday, and that there were probably tens of thousands of other such appeals filed at the same time, one has to wonder how diligently they reviewed my case!
So, what can I do about this if there is no further appeal?
After recovering from the shock and working through the anger of feeling wronged—it helped me to think of it like getting angry at the weather because it unexpectedly rained on your picnic; you can get angry and rant all you want, but the weather doesn’t care … and apparently neither does Facebook—I did what any reasonable person would do: start working on a solution. So, instead of relying so heavily on Facebook we will just have to resort to other alternatives, such as putting more emphasis on Google ads and Amazon ads, using these website blogs more heavily, and more emailing to my subscribers to get the word out. And, surprisingly, even though they are owned by the same company and the accounts are linked, my Instagram account is still up (for now.) Apparently they have different “Community Standards” on Instagram!
Will you help?
If you are a friend, family member, a fan of good historical fiction, or just don’t like to see someone’s ability to communicate freely stifled, please consider any or all of the following:
Share links to this blog with everyone in your own social media network. You can copy this link: https://www.chrisabennett.com/post/2021-Social-Media-Purges-What-Happens-When-Regular-People-Get-Swept-Up-in-Historic-Events
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Thanks so much, your support is greatly appreciated.