At times I have felt like the last person on Earth who does not have a Facebook account. Not long ago I learned that both of my parents have their own Facebook profiles, and my wife recently signed up for one at the request of a friend. Seems like everybody is keeping up with all of their acquaintances this way. Until recently, I assumed Facebook and MySpace were mostly useless sites wherein self-aggrandizing people would write about how ghetto they were and post gratuitous photos of their sexual conquests. However, since essentially everyone I know is on Facebook, and have recently been inviting me to look at photos that I can’t even see without signing up, I decided today to give it a try. If nothing else, I might even reconnect with old friends or colleagues whom I hadn’t talked to in a while.
I gotta tell you, though, I’ve just spent the last 90 minutes getting royally screwed by Facebook’s incompetently programmed administrative system, and if this is any indication of how well the rest of the Facebook service has been coded, then I fear I may be in for a world of shit.
To begin the process, my wife sent me an email invitation to Facebook so that I could just click a link, sign up and become one of her friends right away. I’d asked her to send me that invitation to my Gmail account, just in case Facebook decided to start spamming me there. For my actual Facebook profile, though, I created a new Facebook-only email address on my domain name for security reasons (and so that I could compartmentalize my Facebook communications). This decision, unfortunately, appeared to create a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum.
When I clicked on the link in the email invitation that my wife sent me, Facebook detected that I was using Gmail and offered to automatically use my Gmail account as my Facebook email. I didn’t want that, though, so I clicked the “Use another email address” link that was provided. I went through the Facebook signup process, using the custom domain email address that I’d created, and all seemed to be well. The final step of the process asked me to upload a profile picture, which I did, and finally I arrived at my account’s home screen.
Facebook wanted me to confirm my email address next. At the top of the screen was a ribbon indicating that a confirmation email had been dispatched to me. Sure enough, I received it. But when I clicked the confirmation link in that email, I was taken to a Facebook page that said “An error has occurred.” Ohhhhhhh-kay…so I can’t confirm my account, then? WTF?
After poking around a bit, I discovered that somehow Facebook had botched the setup of my account. For whatever reason, it looked they had associated my Gmail address with the account even though I told them not to. Yet, all of my Facebook emails were correctly going to the domain-based address that I created. How was this possible? I logged out of Facebook, then tried to log back in — and discovered that I couldn’t. When I entered my domain-based address, Facebook retorted that there was no account using that address. I then tried my Gmail account, which worked — but Facebook complained that my password was incorrect, no matter how many times I tried typing it in. I know I was typing it correctly.
Okay, fine. I’ll use the “reset password” function. But that didn’t work either! Although Facebook’s login page indicated that there was an account using my Gmail address, when I entered that same address on the reset password page, Facebook reported that no such account existed. It was like talking to a computer with multiple personality disorder.
At this point I was fairly certain that something about the signup process had gone wrong. I decided to go to Facebook.com and create a new account using the standard process on their website, rather than the invitation email. This time the process worked flawlessly — sort of. Although I now had a new account, I also had the old, corrupt account — and they were both associated with the same email address. Facebook’s documentation insist that this isn’t possible, but yet there it was. I sent a test message from my new profile to my old one, and I got the email notification at the same address I’d used when signing up for my new account.
Great. So I now had two Facebook accounts, one I could log into and the other I couldn’t. The one I couldn’t log into had my photo on it, the name of the college I graduated from and the name of the company I own. I can’t just leave that hanging out there if I have no way to access that profile. I also didn’t want to continue setting up my new profile, as it would just be duplicitous. I decided that I needed to contact Facebook support to try and iron this out.
Well, good fucking luck with that. Facebook doesn’t want to talk to you. Probably because they know that most of their users are the aforementioned self-aggrandizing people who write about how ghetto they are and post gratuitous photos of their sexual conquests. You know, the average helpdesk worker’s worst nightmare. So I’ll be damned if I could find any way to send their support people a message that I could actually type my problem into. All I could find were a bunch of mindless forms whose purpose has been hard-coded — you know, “Submit this form if you are having email problems” or “Submit this form if you want to report a hacked profile” and on and on. This problem I’m having should never ever occur, and would take a lot of text to accurately describe. Facebook provided me no avenue in which to do so.
As a last resort, I did two things.
First, I logged into my new account and requested permanent deletion of it. The account immediately was deactivated, but Facebook informed me that they were going to leave it on their servers for 14 days in case I changed my mind and wanted to come back. If I logged in anytime during those 14 days, they said, my profile would be reactivated, not deleted. OK, not really want I wanted, but I’ll take it. (I was hoping for a way to completely eradicate all trace of my information from their servers so I could start fresh.)
Second, I went to my wife’s computer, logged in as her, then brought up my original profile (the one I can’t log into) and reported it to Facebook’s TOS violations department as a page that “does not represent an actual person.” I was forced to take this step because Facebook provides no method of deleting a duplicate profile unless you are actually able to log into that profile. “It is a violation of our terms of service to have more than one profile,” they scold. That fits, actually, because I’ve reported a terms of service violation that was perpetrated by their own ass-tastic signup routine.
Facebook makes no bones about the fact that they do not respond to you personally if you report a profile as being in violation, so I guess I’ll routinely search for myself using my wife’s Facebook profile and see if that corrupted profile ever disappears. If it does, I guess I’ll be able to safely try this whole mess again. But I have to tell you, it’s really made me think twice about the whole idea.
What gets me is, how do so many hojillions of people use Facebook without running afoul of their poorly-written systems? Or does it actually happen routinely, and people just put up with it? I can’t possibly be the only person who’s ever signed up via invitation and decided to use a different email address from the one the invitation went to. Perhaps it was just a fluke?
Or maybe — just maybe — I really am getting old.