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First World Problems - Facebook Deleted Five Years of My Life

They think I'm a socially precocious child.

by Gavin Haynes
May 17 2012, 2:35pm

Facebook deleted my account and all my photos apart from the four in this article.

Am I a 12-year-old child? Suddenly I'm not so sure. I mean, I think I remember Limp Bizkit. And Boris Yeltsin. And landlines. All of which would point to me not being 12. And I have no idea what GoGo's Crazy Bones is. Really, it's just a name to me. I don't even know where it popped into my head from, and wasn't that, like, ten years ago anyway?

Then again, Facebook seems to think otherwise. And when is Facebook ever wrong? Never, that's when—science tells us that they know more about you than you do. The financial markets are about to give them history's most exquisite blowjob. So whatever Mark Zuckerberg tells you that you think you are not, it is true. When he decides you signed up to his site at age seven in order to masquerade as a twentysomething, you did. And when he decides you are dead to the social world, well, brother, you just are.

It's been six weeks since I first discovered that the Great Zuckerberg In The Sky had pressed the "delete via Kafka" button on my life and times. I went to log in. I simply wasn't there. So I went to the FAQs. It could be, it said in very small print, that my account had been flagged for deletion. If I wanted, I could apply to ask what had happened via a link.

So I did. The reply took a week. But when it arrived, it was well worth it.


Facebook requires all members to be at least 13 years. At this time, we can’t verify your age. In order to look into the reactivation of your account, we will need for you to provide us with a digital image of one of the following documents:

Driver's license
Birth certificate
School or work ID

User Operations

Really, Facebook? You'd like a scan of my birth certificate? Clearly, Facebook had begun to imagine itself as we have all begun to imagine it: as some sort of psuedo-state governmental department. The Ministry Of Online Networking or something. But you can't argue with bureaucracy. And you definitely can't argue with Lauren User Operations. She doesn't argue back. A few wasted emails later I'd swallowed my pride. I scanned my passport.

One week on, a new reply arrived:


Our systems determined, based on information you provided, that you did not meet Facebook’s minimum age limit. Due to legal obligations, Facebook requires you to be at least 13 years old in order to be eligible for a profile on the site.  

We apologize if this is not the case. Unfortunately, Facebook does not have the ability to restore accounts that have been permanently deleted from the site. When an account is deleted, we purge all personally identifiable information associated with the account from our database.  

User Operations

And that was the end of all my stuff. Forever. Like I'd owned a container with every memento of the years '07 - '12 carefully stored and labelled, and then one day The Zuck simply came along and slung it off some cliffs into the sea.

In summary, then:

1.    We can't email you to say we're deleting your account.
2.    And if we think you're underage, we won't hold onto your account while we ask you for proof of age. We will purge that fucker in a heartbeat.
3.    But we will definitely ask you to prove your age in order to authorize us to tell you that we haven't asked you for proof of age and deleted your account instead.  
4.    There are 800 million-odd users on our site who have yet to prove their age to us. But they will get their comeuppance. Oh yes.
5.    According to our logic, you would have been seven years old when you set up your account. Six years have passed, and you're now 13—and my, what a socially precocious 13-year-old you are! Ninety percent of your friends are in their late twenties and early thirties. You must have real charisma. Are you a child star? How did you earn the wisdom you dispense so generously at the wine evenings and house parties you attend with London's media glitterati? Have you made a Faustian pact? Because even though we employ tons of MIT PhDs to write algorithms for those oh-so-user-specific ads, we have not studied enough probability theory to see how grossly unlikely it is that anyone with your profile attributes wouldn't be 13.

I am a sucker for getting hit in the face repeatedly for no reason, so I have tried, since then, to put some of these points to Lauren User Operations.

Sadly, she only sends back the same three Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V'ed paragraphs she's already sent me. I have become a bit obsessed with Lauren. Who is she? Who is she really? I don't know if there's any truth in it, but I've heard that Facebook outsources some of their back-office systems to third-worlders working pro-rata. That there are people in Morocco whose lives involve sifting through content flagged as offensive: a 9-5 of pressing thumbs-up or thumbs-down on images of dead babies, car-wrecks, racist penetration, alpaca cruelty... I am wondering if "Lauren"—or, as I suppose her real name to be, Maria Del La Luz of La Paz, Bolivia—enjoys her job, sifting through these prepared paragraphs to find the one that matches the user deletion case at hand.

I don't envy Lauren/Maria. For a start, she has to deal with pricks like me. But I also imagine her going home at the end of a long day of Ctrl+Alt-ing paragraphs from Zuckerberg's masterplan prospectus, shuffling back to her shack in La Paz. Sitting down on one of her rusty chairs. Just trying to turn off after spending all day thinking about #1stworldproblems... but she just can't re-engage with #3rdworldproblems. Her kid has measles, she has to walk three blocks for safe drinking water, and all she can think about is a piece of vague misogyny from Mail Online that got huffed and puffed around FB that afternoon.

Facebook only has 3,000 direct employees. This week, its $100 billion IPO will mean that they are each worth $333333333.33. Perhaps Lauren/Maria will see this figure being kicked around the web. Perhaps she will conclude, as the markets evidently have, that her boss is an infallible savant who is indisputably going to lead us all into the techno-future. “Why do people argue back when I Ctrl+V them those paragraphs?” she will mutter. “Don't they know that Facebook is always right? Always.” Then, she will curse darkly as her child passes away from diphtheria, and wonder yet again whether, if she keeps enough of these masquerading, hyper-intelligent 13-year-olds off of Mark's website, she may, maybe, one day, share in that wealth.

Follow Gavin on Twitter to keep up-to-date with the whining of a socially prodigious 13-year-old child: @hurtgavinhaynes

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