Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The Darkside of Social Media
One simple desire to build a word with seven little random tiles in an on-line game called Scrabble has led me down a path of destruction where I woke this morning to find my identity has been erased. You would think that sitting on your sofa with your children while they do homework would be a fairly harmless event. While piddling around on the computer, my son told me about an online game site where I can play Scrabble with strangers. Sounds fun, I thought! As I began to register to play, I discovered a button that says I can connect with my Facebook account. How easy… How thoughtful of them to give me this option. Oddly when I did this, I was instantly in my account with the screen name “Darkside 902”. Honestly, that should have been my first red flag. But no… I wandered down this road oblivious to the violations I was incurring. Curious about this seemingly dark identity, I asked my children how this came to be. My daughter informed me that the screen name was just randomly assigned. I should have known better. My son gave me a better explanation that his friend was on my laptop and tried to connect when I must have had my Facebook running in the background. This seemed reasonable and I bought it. I tried to change my screen name, but I was stuck as Darkside902. Heck – all I wanted to do was build a word or two, so I continued on my journey. I didn’t know that my name would be posted on the side screen where I could chat with other gamers. While “ButterCup78”, “LuluSmiles”, and “PJinMaine” built words fast and furiously, they chatted it up on the sidelines. Nobody wanted to talk to Darkside 902. Somehow I felt alone – ostracized by a bunch of alphabet wielding strangers. I built a seven letter, 32 point word and exited the room with my head hung in shame from a name I never chose and somehow couldn’t change. I closed the computer and went to bed – unaware what was occurring in the background. As I woke, I discovered that my Facebook account had been disabled without warning. No reason was given - just an immediate removal from the virtual world where I have 542 friends, 1050 pictures of my children and two messages from people I haven’t seen in 30 years. I’m being punished and I don’t even know what I did wrong. In the pit of my stomach, I know that it has something to do with that damn Darkside 902. I knew it was trouble. The name, alone, screamed trouble! Years ago, my ten year old son was banned for life from a very large on-line gaming community for “real-world” selling. Seems he figured out how to quickly earn large amount of points, buy precious commodities and sell them on eBay where he would then meet the buyer in the virtual world and hand over the golden axes, cloaks of invisibility and crowns of honor. This, it seems, was a frowned upon practice. I found quickly that there was no phone number to contact anyone on the website. Your only hope for reason is a one-time appeal where you can state your case and hope that the virtual judges and demi-Gods will shed their grace on you and forgive you. I wrote a letter that would make my college English professor proud and apologized for my little boy’s indiscretions. An almost instant response came back that simply said, “NO – He may not play our game. You may ask again, once only, and we may reconsider.” I found that the site owners were from somewhere outside the boundries of the United States and did not have a similar justice system as we. Nor did they have compassion, forgiveness or toll-free numbers. I could picture them laughing on their little medieval island of pages and pawns enjoying those requests for forgiveness of sins. After begging for mercy a second time, they now informed me that they were slapping my child’s hand from across the water and that he would never mine for oar again on their lands. We accepted defeat and moved on to other interests. I can only hope that the owners of Facebook do not live on that same island of exclusivity and want me to come on bended knee to beg for mercy for unknown crimes. They too, offer no real-world contact… just a button that takes me to an appeal page where I can upload a government issued I.D. to prove my identity and hope for the best. There is no space for comments, questions, or pleas. I believe I am slowly transforming to Darkside 902 who is standing outside the social media world with my hat in my hand begging for mercy. Oh wait … that would be a hooded cape in hand. I forget who I am sometimes!