Facebook Doesn’t Like My Face: To the Facebook Ad Team that Told Me My Face Would Receive “High Negative Feedback”

C and L top

Last week, I posted an article 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 send 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 ten.

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:

“Hi Lisa,

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/adpolicy
You can also review our guidelines by visiting:
http://www.facebook.com/ad_guidelines.php .
Rachel
Facebook Ads Team
Facebook”

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.

h-e-double-hockey-sticks-big

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 STICK (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 Marc 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.

Disclaimer:

In case you’re wondering if my story is legit, here are the original communications I received:

FB Ad Rejection final FB email final

7/29/15 Update: It took a call from Yahoo to get Facebook to reverse their original decision. Read the article here.

Woman’s ad showing her face rejected by Facebook for high chance of ‘negative feedback’

Many thanks to the thousands of you who shared this post within the first 24 hours that it went live. Together, we are powerful! My faith in humanity has been restored. I plan to write a follow-up blog on this, so stay tuned.

7/30 Update: The saga continues! Turns out, the problem with my ad has not been rectified. Stay tuned for more information.

57 Comments »

  1. Wow that is great Lisa! Who knew Facebook started as a FACE book? I thought it was for old NANAs to show off their grandchildren. I love your writing and you inspire me as I still put on makeup to go to the ER. You are wonderful! In all ways!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa-Not sure what to say that could bring you comfort right now- other than stay the course. As you openly discuss and depict your life with scleroderma, you inspire, enlighten, and very possibly save many.Keep hanging tough,LesleySent from Xfinity Connect Mobile App

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a physician, I am horrified when I read this blog. Obviously, this Rachel and the rest of the Facebook Ad team have no idea what scleroderma is and can do, and can look no further than the surface. I am disgusted how your ad could be rejected for posting an image of yourself and Chanel in your “natural” states and then with make-up. As you said, this is NOT a before and after ad; it is two very brave people fighting a potentially ravaging and disfiguring disease that you both have no control over. I am so proud to have you as my sister-in-law and impressed with how you have gotten your message out there regarding scleroderma. As the employees of Facebook have shown, there is not near enough understanding of this potentially devastating autoimmune disease. Facebook should reconsider, but then again as you have pointed out, Facebook has been based on image from the start. To see what Facebook allows people to post and then to have rejected your attempt to actually educate the public and raise awareness about a poorly known disease is very, very disappointing. Keep posting Lisa, and keep trying to get your story out there. People need to know that even with scleroderma that you are a smart, wonderful, loving, caring, and beautiful person, with or without make-up, and that life is not only skin deep.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning, Lisa! I was enjoying my breakfast until I read your comments about Facebook, and now the almond milk in my stomach feels like it is curdling! I am H-E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS annoyed with them, too!

    Have you considered asking everyone who originally responded, shared, etc., to the first posting with you and Chanel to send a response to Facebook demanding they publish your ad? You could also send it to the Scleroderma Foundation in Massachusetts, and the Scleroderma Research Foundation in California, asking them to send an email to their members and ask them to write to Facebook as well.

    Facebook is a wonderful resource for awareness, but I wonder how aware THEY are. Rachel’s response makes me wonder if she did anything other than take a 1 second look at your photo and Chanel’s photo.

    I still KNOW how beautiful you are inside, and there is nothing wrong with your outside either!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is obvious that the people on the FB ad team do not understand what they are reading. Maybe they should be inundated with mail explaining in first grade language what your goal is in placing the ad.
    Personally I don’t care how you look. It is not what is on the outside but rather what is on the inside. Your inside is kind and caring, funny and smart. It doesn’t matter how you look. I still love having your as a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You stay on the high road, Lisa….. and let us, your readers, fight this one for you. It is ridiculous that your post was rejected- the message is exactly the opposite of what they are doing by rejecting it. Yes- the irony is thick. How can we all share this on Facebook? Inundate Facebook with this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow I am constantly seeing ads that according to their policy shouldn’t be allowed. Kudos to you for being brave and trying to raise awareness. And shame to the people at Facebook for being do judgemental

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are inspiring and courageous! I get it. I have scleroderma and have a leg that is full of thick skin, I know how it makes me feel and have no worn shorts in years. Sending you love and blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I share the indignation of these people who have responded to your beautiful words and the blind refusal of Facebook to allow them to be widely read. Please know that you have the admiration and support of many of your readers. I should be proud for a child of mine to have you for a teacher!

    Like

  10. I to suffer from scleroderma. it sadly robs and destroys our facial skin and if that isnt enough but to be descriminated against for our before and after pictures is disgusting. there is much worse been posted on social media, we should be allowed to post our struggle to raise awareness if you are offended then scroll by

    Like

  11. There is so much I find wrong with the FB rejection, including the fact that I get plenty of offensive “ads” in my stream as they search through my posts and “likes” to make assumptions about me and my interests. Your writing and topic is far from offensive or “before and after”. Continue on my brave warrior!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have scleroderma and I post pics but my disease hasn’t affected my outer skin; it wrecked havoc on my internal organs, lungs and kidney. In which I needed a transplant of the lungs and right kidney. Your article is powerful and I’m thankful for a strong-willed individual to step out front for this cause and advocate about this horrific disease. People just don’t understand what their not familiar with. Be Blessed!

    Like

  13. Hey Facebook. You are missing the point. This is about a terrible disease and trying to make people more aware of it. Not about “perfect body image”. Your complete lack of sensitivity towards this issue is disturbing and classless.

    Like

  14. Thanks to people like you those of us new to scleroderma have someone to show us there is life after. I found out last year about mine which so far only affects my hands and fingers. Facebook is named right FACEbook for a reason started by men whom only look at the outer beauty not the inside, so shallow. Maybe with time they will grow up. God bless you.

    Like

  15. This just puts FB in the same blacklist as Judge ignorant Judy and her comparing people with Lupus as being same as drug addicts. That’s just ashamed. I admire you and all you’re doing for this awful disease. My sister and I are battling Lupus. My sister also is living with schleroderma. We hope to find a cure soon. Stay strong and jeep doing what you are doing.

    Like

  16. Sharing on FB and hoping that all my friends do…i want this to go viral because of facebook’s idiocy and ignorance. Their generic and canned responses sicken me and I think you are a lovely woman just the way you are. Chances are the person reviewing the ad didnt even read what you wrote and just skimmed the notes the algorithm place on it and replied. WTF facebook get your crap together.

    Like

  17. Even after explaining that they are not ‘before and after’ pictures multiple times, they still don’t get it? Just stupid. Don’t let stupid facebook determine ANY of your self-worth. I can only imagine what you go through, you are not worthless. You are a person, and all people are worthy of respect and kindness and compassion and encouragement. Continue to be your brave self and set an example for others who need that encouragement and support.

    Like

    • Lisa, your courage and commitment is inspiring. My mom was finally diagnosed with scleroderma after years of misdiagnosis. She had her insides and outsides ravaged by this disease and sadly died 7 years ago at age 73. When we found out she had scleroderma, we couldn’t find anyone else who had ever heard of this disease. My family felt alone. Keep up the fight- there are many standing with you.

      Like

  18. I thought you were a strong person, this should not have affected you so much. Its their choice to promote what they want, its your choice to feel what you want. If I go and ask someone to make me their product’s model and they reject me saying your face is not a fit, I would not feel bad because I choose not to. Get back to being you and you are too amazing to even bother about these issues…

    Like

  19. Omg….. I just read this. Sorry I don’t keep up with Facebook that often. I know I say this to you all the time but you are not only the bravest, sweetest and funniest lady but you are an incredible writer. You are my inspiration and strength. I am so grateful that we have met, become friends and continue to encourage one another. You are AMAZINGLY…

    Like

  20. I don’t have scleroderma–just insomnia–and came across your writing on xojane while trawling the Internet at 4 am.
    Your writing inspired me, but maybe not for the reasons you’d imagine.
    If you were simply a good writer with a terrible disease that you were dealing with with grace and guts and humor, I wouldn’t feel too inspired. In fact, if I were operating true to form, I’d probably think something like, “See, some people are so much better than me. I have far fewer physical problems, yet I don’t have her resilience and toughness.” I’d use your warrior club on my own self-esteem, if you see what I mean.

    But no. Instead, you said that you felt insecure and hesitated to reach out to another person with your same condition, but then did it anyway. You said that when a huge corporation and their machinery spectacularly failed to “get it,” it hurt your feelings. A lot. And that you then internalized their rejection and became livid with yourself for letting the rejection bother you. And then copped to that, and kept going, not having courageously overcome the fear and hurt and self-doubt, but bringing all that “ugly” stuff right out into the open, so that anyone trawling around the Internet red-eyed at four am could read it and think,
    “Yes, me too. And if she can keep going, yes, me too.”

    That is so vauable to know, that our vulnerability can connect us as much or more than our confidence. Thank you.

    Like

  21. Thank you for sharing your story – we posted this link over on our Graves’ Disease & Thyroid Foundation’s Facebook page. Appearance changes can be devastating for patients living with autoimmune diseases; with Graves’, patients can experience bulging and swelling of the eyes as well as double vision, dry eye, tearing, grittiness, and light sensitivity. Dr. David Granet from UCSD Shiley Eye Institute commented on living with thyroid eye disease: “We found levels of depression that rival cancer and AIDS…not looking like yourself hit people even worse than double vision.” Many patients completely withdraw from work and social situations, because the appearance change so profoundly affects how they interact with the world and vice versa. Please keep up this important work – hopefully, Facebook will change its “before and after” policy so that autoimmune patients everywhere can continue to share our stories.

    Like

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