Apparently, my naked butt is PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE! I’ve just been inducted into the ranks of those who’ve gone before me in having their Instagram accounts disabled, resulting in the disappearance of a blog with about 500 posts and nearly 15,000 followers. There was no warning. No previous flags on the account. And no change in my posting habits to speak of. The rules for IG are clear: No female nipples. No genitalia. Buttocks are allowed if not a close-up with the intent of sexual gratification.
This is my third encounter with seemingly random censorship in as many years. You can read my Eulogy for Tumblr that I wrote after falling victim to their sweeping policy changes related to posts containing nudity. My page still exists out there someplace, simply because I never got around to deleting it, though it’s largely a graveyard of deleted posts that once again, featured more images of – you guessed it – my naked arse on mountain tops, swimming in the sea, or sitting at my desk. Hard core stuff, I tell ya! Ironically enough, when I bounce back into Tumblr every now and again, it’s seems just my luck that I drop into a page with blatantly pornographic content that somehow slipped by the butt police. I guess you can’t catch ‘em all.
My second row with social media censorship was when Facebook specifically targeted a “page” that I kept for Meandering Naturists, with about 1200 followers. In that case, I had posted a link to a story from another, “mainstream” publication that had images in the body of the article that auto-populated onto my news-feed. I didn’t realize what had happened until I logged on the next day, only to find red flags all over my page, and a warning to remove the images or reply within a very narrow window of time. I had already missed that window. I clicked through every channel I could locate to make an appeal to save the page, but to no avail. To this day, the page is frozen in perpetuity, but unavailable for public viewing. Numerous attempts to contest the action never elicited as much as an automated response. Nothing.
This time, either an Instagram robot, or an hourly wage screener, or maybe a zealous follower who determined enough is enough, must have decided that the story with four images that I posted on Monday about the French naturist island, Ile du Levant, was simply over the edge. (Images from that post are featured in this post.) That story had accrued about 1000 views by last night. There was no warning from IG, or any other indication that standing on a rock, staring at the Mediterranean Sea was simply over the top. Just a message this morning that my account had been disabled, and that if I verified my identity (which I did) the account would be subject to review in the next 24 hours. Do I expect to hear from the butt police later today? Not a rat’s chance in hell! (That’s the actual full expression, by the way. Did you know that? I had to look it up!) Here again, the qualitative data from those who have been “disappeared” before me doesn’t instill much hope.
Tumblr was a random act of stupid and I simply got caught in the cross-fire. Facebook was irritating in that they say you have a chance to appeal and make your case, but that’s all a ruse as well, as I have a better chance of winning the Super-Lotto than getting a response to a Facebook appeal. And now that Facebook and Instagram are in bed together, this action – and the anticipated non-resolution thereof – was hardly surprising. It’s super irritating for lots of reasons, but here’s the one that frightens me the most…
I am simply dumbstruck by the fact that we have turned over the keys of censorship, personal expression, and freedom of speech to the social media moguls who are now guiding the supposed morality of America. Pictures of my naked butt are small beans compared to what’s really at stake here. Much more disturbing is the craziness that’s going on in Washington DC (and thereby, all over the country) as I’m writing this post, with social media campaigns that not just perpetuate, but breed conspiracy theories (I can’t bear to actually put the name of the big one in print as I don’t want it embedded in the metadata of this post) that have drawn a direct line between “educated, liberal progressives” – even the moderate folks in that cohort – and the most unimaginable abuse of children. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google pizzagate, then follow the story to where that’s landed us today.) Shutting down naturist accounts on social media is annoying. But creating a vehicle that has enabled the proliferation of such vitriol bulls**t can only drive us more deeply into a state of unbridled censorship, not to mention the total dysfunction of democracy! (Oh yeah. That.)
Remember, this is a naturist blog, that seeks to promote the virtues of family naturism in an age where every child in America has probably stumbled into the most heinous of websites, completely by accident with a random typo while working on a school paper. I suspect most have encountered content that most of us could have never imagined twenty years ago. In the meantime, dangerous conspiracy theories like those regarding the supposed secret lives of thoughtful, upstanding citizens could throw a huge wet blanket over the holistic ideals of American naturism once and for all. It all fits perfectly into the story line. A rational person would think, “Nah! A random post on social media can’t have that kind of influence.” And I say again, you thought my butt was dangerous?!
Will I start over on Instagram? I doubt it. My guess is that the actual algorithm that gets one cancelled on these platforms is indexed to the concern that you’re actually starting to make a difference. Somebody took notice. Maybe somebody got offended and filed a complaint. To which I say, if my naked butt posed on a rocky cliff in France is the worst of your worries, maybe you need to broaden your perspective a bit. Perhaps you can steal away a few moments to ponder what you’ll tell your grand-kids about life “back in the day” before Orwellian prophecy became the real-time operational mores of a society gone off the rails.
And oh, one more thing. Didn’t the founder of Facebook create that platform in the first place as a vehicle for hitting on college girls, or is that just an urban legend? (It’s in a movie, so it must be true!) That sounds like exactly the kind of person I want to manage every detail of my life, from the censorship of my butt, to how we elect a president.
How on earth did we get here?