What happens when you drink the Kool-aid? OK, better question … What happens when social media becomes woven into the fabric of your life and you rely on a web-based, profile (that you cannot back up or export) as the center of your social universe? Answer 1: When everything is working as designed, the world is virtually wonderful. Answer 2: When everything is NOT working as designed, we get an up-close, personal view of the pain and anguish a truly online, cloud-based world could eventually offer us. As bright as the upside is, the dark side is darker!
I’ve been on facebook for as long as they have allowed grown-ups. You can friend me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have kids who are on facebook, and literally hundreds of friends and colleagues who have profiles as well. So, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long for my wife to get a profile too. Now, like so many typical families, we have kids that live home, kids away at school, married kids, etc. We have friends and relatives all over the place and, because facebook now has the population of the 6th largest country, everyone we know is on fb.
For the past six months things have been great. My wife, although new to fb, is in love with the social networking aspect of the service. She has reconnected with her old friends, connected with her current group and has a direct digital connection with our kids.
Now, I leave fb open on my computer most of the day. But for me, it’s just one of many communications tools. However, my wife is a fb demon. She’s on it like glue. Actually, I think she’s addicted. For her, it has replaced IM, email and Kodak Easy-share. And that’s saying a lot!
The other day, she came into my office and announced that one of her friends sent her a real-world email saying that they thought her fb profile had been hacked. I didn’t think much of it. We checked out her profile, messages, etc. and determined that everything looked OK. It wasn’t.
A few days later, several of her friends had contacted her (on and off fb) to tell her that they had received messages that they were sure were not from her. Then, I received a fb chat from her while she was standing next to me. The hacker was online!
I challenged the hacker and he/she told me that they were in my account too. Unlikely, but it sounded fierce.
By the time we got to my wife’s computer, fb had disabled her account and she had received a message that her account was compromised and that they were aware of the issue.
That sounded good at the time. But that was a week ago.
Unwilling to use my connections to deal with this, and thinking that the experience would make for a good article, I asked my wife to see if she could deal with it. She agreed to try.
Within a few minutes she told me that she had no idea how to deal with it. There seemed to be no way to contact anyone.
I IM’d (AOL IM, that is) her the URL of the appropriate fb security page and told her to follow the instructions. The page clearly says, if you think your account has been hacked “click here.” Sadly, it asked for the URL of her fb profile, which she did not know. And, there was nothing we could do to help her since her account was gone.
After several emails into the black hole of fb customer service, I have decided to use my contacts to find a “real person” inside to speak with. This is not as easy as it sounds (even for me). I have several fb contacts, however, none of them work in security. This is going to be hard.
What’s my wife doing? Nothing. She doesn’t have a profile and she doesn’t know who to call, who to contact or what to do.
SEVERAL DAYS LATER:
This is actually now a social media nightmare. Debbie Sommers Palmer RIP. Her virtual world no longer exists. Every comment she made, every picture she uploaded, every connection she had, every one of the old friends that she reconnected with … all gone.
AN UNANSWERED CALL FOR HELP:
So, being the dutiful husband that I am, I decided to go wide with my call for help. Now, I have over 3,400 fb friends. Most of them are in the related fields of technology, media and entertainment. A large number of them are in pure play Internet. Three facebook updates, yielded several messages of solidarity, but no possible help. Two people in my fb network actually work at fb, no answer to the question. One is a relative of the founder, nope. Not even an answer to a direct message.
OK, if the fb community is not able to rally, how about the newest social media darling? Actually, I sent simultaneous tweets to Twitter, fb and LinkedIn using ping.fm — nothing, nada, zilch, zippo … we shall all mourn the loss of my virtual wife.
THE SAGA CONTINUES:
From a business perspective, this is the problem with an organization that has 200 million non-paying customers and no actual meaningful revenue model. How many customer service people would a reasonable person expect them to have? More to the point, the service is free — so it’s worth what you pay for it!
But that is not what consumers of Internet services have come to expect. We expect Facebook to live up to our extremely unrealistic expectations of customer retention and customer service. We shouldn’t, but we do.
During this week, several of my friends’ accounts have been hacked. Security on Facebook is becoming a real issue. That being said, it’s a technology problem and computer people are pretty good at solving those. The bigger problem for Zuckerberg and company is the fact that my wife won’t ever trust a cloud-based, social network again. She won’t bother to invest the time and energy to establish another virtual presence because she feels completely victimized. The hacker victimized her, then facebook penalized and victimized her and then, abandoned her. The damage is done, she’s gone — herein lies the challenge and the opportunity.
Author’s note: Just minutes before publishing this article, facebook reinstated Debbie’s account. She’s back … but for how long?