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Last week, I posted an article on my blog with a photo of my bare face (no makeup). To the left of me is a photograph of a beautiful woman named Chanel. At 23 years old, Chanel is bravely fighting a devastating battle against major organ failure due to scleroderma. You can read the full article here.
It’s difficult to articulate how much courage I had to muster before hitting the “publish” icon and sending my naked face out for public viewing for the first time in my life. I have written extensively about how my disease, scleroderma, has eroded my self-esteem, body-image, and sense of self-worth since the age of 10.
After 30 years of going to great lengths to conceal my face, I put it out there to illustrate how much more there is to people than what we see. Since the post got over 600 shares, I wanted to amplify my message by placing an ad on Facebook to promote the article. I’ve done this before with other popular posts and they’ve always been approved by the Facebook ad team. I received the response below, saying my ad was not approved.
“Your ad wasn’t approved because it includes “before and after” images, or other images showing unexpected or unlikely results. It’s also recommended that you avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback.
Before resubmitting your ad, please visit our policy site to learn more and see examples of ads that meet our guidelines.
If you’ve read the policies and think your ad follows the rules and should have been approved, please let us know.”
I reviewed their policy site, and believed my ad was compliant with their regulations. I wrote back to Facebook:
“My ad is to spread awareness for a rare autoimmune disease; scleroderma. These two pictures represent the different ways that scleroderma impacts patients. I ask that someone in your department please read the article and explain why it was not approved. This is not a “before and after” type ad. It is a serious article on a serious disease. Thank you.”
This morning I got this response:
I’ve taken a look at your ads and see that we weren’t able to accept them because of the image used. Please note that we don’t allow images that promote an ideal body/physical image (i.e. before and after images). If you’d like to create new ads, please make sure to choose an image that complies with all guidelines.For more information including examples and explanations of our ad policies, please visit:https://www.facebook.com/help/adpolicyYou can also review our guidelines by visiting:http://www.facebook.com/ad_guidelines.php .RachelFacebook Ads TeamFacebook”
At age 40, I have decided to share my struggles with my reflection in the mirror. My hope is to inspire others and promote positive change in the way we perceive beauty and elevate awareness for scleroderma in the process.
When I posted last week’s article, I received incredibly positive feedback. Strangers told me I was brave and that what I did would help many women and girls. Friends texted me and told me that I am way too hard on myself and should consider going out in public without makeup.
Although it was not my motive behind writing the article, I was exhilarated by the overflowing kindness I received.
I can’t describe the emotional blow that accompanied Facebook’s rejection of my ad. At first, I hoped that I was not rejected by an actual human. I figured maybe Facebook uses software that detects possible infringements on their ad policies. Perhaps I received an automated response to my autoimmune disease?
This did not make me feel better. The fact that my bare face would cause software to recoil in fear and set off virtual alarms was not a self-esteem booster. However, thinking that I was rejected by an algorithm, instead of a human gave me hope that this was all a misunderstanding.
Then, I heard from a real live person. Her name is Rachel. I asked for someone in the Facebook ad department to read my article and Rachel said she had “reviewed” it, but that my “before and after” picture violates their ad policy.
Despite my email explicitly explaining that my ad did not include before and after photos, it seems I am still in violation of their policy. I’ve been advised to “avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback.”
That said body part is my face. Does anyone else see the irony in my face violating Facebook’s ad policy? Would my scleroderma-ravaged elbows or fingers have been less offensive?
I know some might say I’m overreacting to a random woman sitting in an office across the country just trying to do her job. I realize this is a trivial matter and a far cry from the tragedies that occur daily in our world (not the least of which is a 23-year-old woman who is fighting for her life—the topic I was trying to promote with my ad).
This is a microcosm of a larger issue. The entire purpose of my ad was to reach a broader community and share the notion that we shouldn’t judge others by deceptive appearances. I wanted to depict the value in shedding preconceived notions about those who deviate from what we deem normal.
Ridiculous as it may be for a 40-year-old woman to be enraged by a policy she knows in her heart she did not violate, I am pissed as H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS (strong language, I know, I need to simmer down. Seriously, I would write far worse, but my former students read my blog and I don’t want them to know their fourth grade teacher swears like a truck driver).
My husband has told me he loves me for who I am and offered to call Mark Zuckerberg for me (ha ha). He seems to think that if Facebook accepts my ad, that will fix everything.
While I love him for that, he’s missing the point.
I’m not angry at a Facebook algorithm or Rachel from their ad team for rejecting the face that I’ve worked so hard to accept. I’m livid with myself for allowing the rejection to dictate my feelings of self-worth.
I hate that this petty matter triggered such strong emotions for me. The trauma associated with the rejection my appearance has generated for three decades was unleashed in a profound way that I can’t explain. I write about rising above society’s obsession with materialism and outer beauty.
I’ve often said, women just need to say, “who cares?” and focus on what’s really important in life. Yet, I allowed Facebook’s rejection to reduce me to a puddle of mush when they essentially told me they would not promote my face.
Facebook originated as a demeaning method for guys at Harvard to compare and rate the faces of women. It has evolved into a wonderful tool that allows us to share, comment, like, and connect with people.
I’m thankful for Facebook, as it is the primary method I use to share my writing. When you think about it, sharing, liking, and commenting are all forms of accepting our peers. Whether you’re 10, 40, or 100, everyone yearns for acceptance. I will not allow Facebook to reject my face. Please share if you agree.
Update: Since writing my original post, Facebook has responded to me apologizing for removing my ads, and re-approving them. Hooray! I will be writing back to them with a copy of my most recent article, so that they might consider taking a closer look at their policy and how it is communicated.
This post originally appeared on Comfortable in my Thick Skin.