Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Attack of the Grand High Twits

Last Friday evening, a certain popular social media network, the one that allows users to post 140-character ditties for followers interested in what they have to say, decided to suspend my account.  For the purposes of this posting, I will refer to this network as “the social media network in question”.   I will also be referring to the powers-that-be at this network as “The Grand High Twits”, which is probably a step up from my original choice of “Stupid Bastards”.

I started using “the social media network in question” about two years ago, and was slow to take to it.  The first year I was on board, I rarely checked it more than once a week, and had no more than a few dozen followers.  Once I saw its power as a means for networking with other writers and creative-types, thus giving my writing a much-needed kick in the pants, I began to use it more regularly.  “The social media network in question” is now my go-to social media site.  I’ve built my following to nearly 500 people, and follow around that same number.  It is modest compared to some I know, but I have been choosey about both the people I follow and those I allow to follow me.   Like a tiny seedling in a quiet patch of earth, I’ve nurtured my account and coaxed it, tending it constantly, weeding and pruning, until it has become something special.

Then the Grand High Twits in charge at “the social media network in question” came along last Friday evening and, like a big smelly St. Bernard, took a massive dump on my little seedling by suspending my account.

Let me give you a little context.

My use of “the social media network in question” has always been conservative at best.  Typically, I will post when I have updated my blog or am looking for some feedback on a writing-related issue.  I like to share my thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and the lighter side of Maine politics, and sometimes re-post links to interesting news articles or the thoughts of others whom I follow.  Some weeks, I’ve also been known to give shout-outs to aspiring writers who are also on “the social media network in question” on Wednesdays, and to other non-writing people who interest me on Fridays.  On a given day, I average probably around five or six postings.  I’ll occasionally reply to postings made by people I have followed for a while also.

The accounts I follow fall under two categories: those who provide information of interest to me (e.g.-news, sports, weather, etc.), or like-minded creative types such as writers, actors, musicians and the like.  Some of the latter are super big-time people who don’t even realize I am alive, but most are more like me: relative small timers trying to get off the ground and share what they can do with others who might be interested.

For example, I follow and am followed by a talented young man who had one big break in Hollywood some time ago and is now looking for the next big thing in his career.  Trouble is, he’s a genuinely decent guy who loves his family, takes his studies seriously, plays sports, has hobbies, goes to church every week, etc.  You get the picture.  Not exactly the Hollywood type.  Plus, for an actor, he’s a little shy, and very normal in appearance. You’d probably not pick him out of a crowd, and in Tinseltown that is not an asset.  He deserves more, and I am genuinely interested in what comes next for this guy.

I also follow and am followed by a very talented woman here in Maine who blogs on the outdoors.  She writes passionately and with authority on any number of topics related to hunting, fishing, wildlife, outdoor recreation and the like.  Her love of the subject matter oozes through in her work.  I originally met her on “the social media network in question”, and it is the means by which we banter back and forth on occasion.  She has been very supportive of my writing, and I can’t say enough good things about hers.  Recently, she was picked up by a major newspaper in the state to provide outdoor columns.  It couldn’t have happened to a better person, and I am dying to follow her progress as she takes her writing to the next level.

As far as those who follow me, I don’t have an iron gate in front of my account.  The only things I ask if you want to follow me are: a) don’t be a purveyor of sexually explicit material and b) post your own personal postings once in a while.  Don’t just follow me and disappear, or worse yet, repost the same thing over and over.

I've become quite attached to the people I follow, as well as those who follow me, in a weird, 21st century kind of way.  In some ways it is like the relationship somebody might develop with a character in a book or a television show: not a personal one necessarily, but one with meaning nonetheless.

Which leads me to last Friday evening.

My personality might best be described as “gently cynical”. My buddies used to compare me to the Matthew Perry character Chandler on the TV show Friends back in the 1990s.  Like Chandler, I’m not going to plow anyone down with overt nastiness, but I do have a hard time keeping snide comments to myself, especially when something offbeat is right in front of me.  Plenty of aspects of the Olympic opening ceremonies in London last Friday fit that description, and since I found myself alone while watching them, I decided to let my thoughts loose on my followers.  Some examples:

“Am I the only one hoping for Mr. Bean to be the one lighting the Olympic cauldron? #openingceremony

Call me a philistine, but Kenneth Branaugh is always going to be a Hogwarts professor to me. #OpeningCeremony #OlympicCeremony

If there was a gold medal for running too many ads, NBC would have already won it. #OpeningCeremony #OlympicCeremony

“ ‘Queuing’? ‘Telly’? Matt Lauer's been into the bangers and mash again. #openingceremony

Get the gist? I put up about 35 postings of this type in the space of about 90 minutes.  Nothing offensive, nothing that tried to sell or promote anything.  Then, all of a sudden, a banner shows up on my account stating that it had been suspended, without explanation.  I went to the link provided, tried unsuccessfully to figure out which rule I had broken, and then immediately wrote to contest my suspension, using polite but strongly-worded terms. I got a robo-reply that they had received my objection, but no explanation of what I had done that fell outside their lines or when they would get back to me.  Some legwork online revealed that much of the suspension work done by “the social media network in question” is done by “bots” which scan accounts for anomalies and summarily suspend (have you read George Orwell’s 1984, by the way?), leaving the flesh and blood tech support people to sort it all out later.

I expected a top-tier outfit like “the social media network in question” to have tech support staff on-hand 24/7, and expected a resolution within a few hours, if not by the following morning. Nope.  Nothing from them the next morning, or the next, or even the next.  It wasn’t until Monday evening, and then only after a series of pointed inquiries by me into the status of my account, that I got the following reply from the Grand High Twits, in which I have edited only the real name of the social media network:

“Your account was suspended for posting multiple unrelated updates to a trending or popular topic, which is a violation of the *****er Rules. You can find the more information about Trending Topics here:

I have now unsuspended your account. Repeat violations may result in permanent suspension.

Thank you,

That last line made me feel exactly like I was an eight-year-old kid in parochial school again, and not in a good way. Essentially, the Grand High Twits were saying “I will let it slide this time, but if you do it again, you are going to get severely punished.”  Yes, Mother Superior.  Thank you, Mother Superior.  I’ll never do it again, Mother Superior.

I was tempted at that point to tell the Grand High Twits to shove my account right up their cyber butts, but thankfully cooler heads prevailed.  It still took them another 24 hours to fully restore my account, by the way.

So I’m back on “the social media network in question”, but some questions remain:

·         What determines “unrelated updates to a trending or popular topic”? Did they see the opening ceremonies?  Nothing was related to anything else.

·         For that matter, what determines “multiple”? Is it two?  Twenty?  Two hundred?

·         Was there a connection between my suspension and the fact that my postings were about the Olympics?  Especially given that the social media network in question and the broadcaster carrying the games here in the U.S. have a recently-minted partnership in place? 

·         Are the Grand High Twits really as stupid as they appear?  The network is under a very bright spotlight with the Olympics underway, and liberal interpretation of their rules as a means of suppressing opinions contrary to their own is really, really bad thinking.  After all, they have proudly touted themselves as a major instrument for communication and organization in the “Arab Spring” protests against dictatorships in the Middle East last year.

This article from the New York Times about the suspension from the social network of British journalist Guy Adams for posts critical of the U.S. broadcaster is rather eye-opening.  Adams was suspended at almost exactly the same time I was.  His account is back now too. You can follow him at: @guyadams.  And if you don’t already, I’d be grateful for a follow on my account at “the social media network in question” as well: @countofbluecars.

Just think of following both of us as a way to stick it to “the man”.


  1. So relieve I'm not the St. Bernard. Phew.

    It makes no sense to me. I've seen offensive things about chik-fil-a that should have gotten people banned. Nothing happened to them. You can't trust Twits.

  2. Twitter is like Facebook, determined to erode its own real purpose and value

  3. This is why the zombie vampire craze is so popular they police social media - they only want to hear about themselves. That's suppose to make you smile but...maybe not.

  4. Wow; much of what I've tweeted has been completely off the trending or popular topic line. This makes no sense.

  5. Dude, I've nominated you for a Liebster Award (a kind of pass it in blog accolade). I've also managed to nominate you twice, forgetting countofbluecars is not another blog! Anyhow, feel free to accept/decline. Details are on the latest post on Cheers!

  6. Consider yourself followed. @soopajane.