Last week, I received an admonishment from Facebook an Improvised Life article I reposted about the funny, playful, risqué-though-rather-unrevealing merkins — pubic wigs— created by artist Sinnae Choi. FB’s message in essence said: You did something bad. We’re banning you from posting anything, anywhere on Facebook for 24 hours.
It may well have been an algorithm that caused Facebook to identify an artwork as out-of-bounds for the platform. Fair enough.
No doubt it was human beings who decided how they would respond to what they considered inappropriate behavior by a long-time publisher on their site. (Where many people read Improvised Life’s three-times-a-day postings.)
I felt like a child being made to stand in the corner — in effect take a “time out” — a strikingly infantilizing message by a massive digital institution.
My search for an image to describe this experience led me to the work of Israeli visual artist Michael Druks. In 1973, well before the World Wide Web took hold, and 30 years before Facebook launched, he created Punishment, Stand in the Corner, a collage of four images mounted on plywood:
Recreating the experience of standing in the corner at Israeli sites charged with personal, religious, cultural, and national significance raises questions about the relationship between the individual and authority (the instructions in authoritative institutions)…
—Life: A User’s Manual, an exhibition at the Israel Museum
Facebook could have sent me a friendly message saying Sorry, you may think this is great but it won’t work on our platform. We know you’ve been publishing for many years, and no doubt meant no harm. Please read our policies so you’ll understand where we’re coming from…
Instead, their response was eerily, scarily Big Brother.