After Facebook began stepping up enforcement of its policy requiring users to provide a real name (or at least a name that sounds like it could be real) it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before the Facebook police caught up with me. My buddy Northwest Prophetic was forced to change his name a few weeks ago or face losing his privileges. Several other friends were hit this week with a demand that they provide a different name or have their accounts suspended. A few days ago Facebook deactivated my account, suspecting that no mother would be cruel enough to name their child Praying Medic. They assumed that either I was using the name for a business, or that I was some kind of celebrity and they asked me to convert my private profile to a page.
Facebook doesn’t object to my use of Praying Medic for a fan page. They only object to me using it as a name for my private profile. And here’s the part I don’t get: It would be fine with them if I used a regular name that was not my real name, such as Joe Smith or Frank Jones. They don’t seem to have a problem with people setting up an account under an alias that sounds like it could be a real name. They only object to names that don’t appear to be real names people use. I’m not sure how they justify suspending accounts of people who use an obvious alias while not suspending accounts of people who use a not-so-obvious alias.
To some of you, this may not seem like a big deal, but to me it’s a huge issue. I have a Facebook fan page already and to be honest, Facebook pages are nearly worthless. They only have a fraction of the functionality that a private profile has. On my private profile I’m the administrator of at least a dozen groups where we discuss everything from prayer to professional writing. As the owner of a page, you can’t even participate in group activities. Having a private profile allows me to send and receive private messages for prayer, instruction and a lot of other things I need to do to stay connected to my tribe. If my Facebook activities as Praying Medic are going to be restricted to what I can do through a page, there’s no point in me using Facebook at all.
Some of you might be wondering what the deal is with having an anonymous profile, so let me fill you in:
When I began blogging in 2009, like thousands of other medical bloggers I opted to write anonymously – mostly to protect the privacy of my patients, but also to keep my employer from being connected to my online activities for their sake and for mine. For those who are wondering – I keep my patient’s names anonymous when I write about the calls I respond to. The fact that I keep my patient’s names anonymous doesn’t guarantee that their health care information will be protected, so I’ve chosen to keep my identity anonymous as well, to add another layer of protection for the sake of their privacy. But there are other reasons why some people need to have an anonymous internet profiles.
Leaders in religious communities who develop a significant audience quickly become targets for people who don’t like their message. The last thing I need is someone calling me up in the middle of the night to harass me or my family because they don’t agree with something I wrote. Having an anonymous profile allows me to focus on writing and teaching without worrying about people who have a score to settle. As long as I’m working as a paramedic, writing about my calls and teaching on the kingdom of God there will be a need for me to remain anonymous and I won’t be using my real name on social media.
Facebook doesn’t like anonymous profiles so they pulled the plug on mine. They asked that if I was using a valid name that I would provide two pieces of identification including a photo ID to substantiate my claim that I was Praying Medic and not a troll who wants to prey on their customers. I complied with their request and my account is currently under review. Some of you might be wondering that since I published a book under the name Praying Medic that it would give me a legitimate reason to use the name on a private profile, but that didn’t ‘t fly with the Facebook Police Department. There is a specific list of things they’ll accept as proof of identity and a book published under a pen name isn’t on the list.
I know that some of you are a little irate over this, especially since exceptions were made to Facebook’s identity policy after members of the LGBT community and some drag queens protested their policy. Facebook apologized for the insensitive way in which they handled things with this group and is now allowing exceptions to their identity policy for them. So if Facebook made exceptions for these customers, why won’t they make exceptions for Christians or other people who need to remain anonymous?
It’s been said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The LGBT group made enough noise that Facebook could no longer ignore them. They had to meet with them and address their concerns or risk looking like bigots. I’m afraid the same is true for Christians (or anyone else) who desires to remain anonymous on Facebook. If we hope to have our concerns taken seriously by Facebook management, we need to create enough waves that they can’t ignore us any longer. They’ve already demonstrated that they will respond to pressure from groups who create a unified front. I’d like to see Facebook abandon its policy on anonymous profiles. But it’s up to the people who still have a private profile to speak up for the ones who are having theirs taken down. There is strength in numbers.
If you want to make my picture behind bars your profile picture for a while to show your support, it might help raise awareness of the problem. If you’d like to contact Facebook to give them your thoughts, it would send an even louder message. I would be eternally grateful for any support you can give and I know others will appreciate your support as well.
Thanks for being a friend,