Vancouver artist Joe Average is frustrated after Facebook told him he couldn’t use his legal name for his page.
“I cannot get back on as Joe Average which is crazy because it’s my real name,” he said.
Average says Meta-owned Facebook told him his legal name violates its policy. Average and his sister have been trying to contact the social media giant to sort things out but have received little response.
“I think it’s a robot answering,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a human being.”
Problems for the 65-year-old artist began a few weeks ago when it appeared someone had been tampering with his account, which had attracted 5,000 friends.
At first, he thought it might have been some tinkering by his business partner and brushed it off.
He tried to log in but couldn't.
A legal name change
Average changed his name from Brock David Tebbutt 35 years ago. Unable to retrieve his legal name on Facebook, he tinkered around with some alternatives to his past name, eventually landing on Brock Joe Tebbutt.
“I would like to have my name back so I can be Joe Average on Facebook,” he said.
Facebook’s media department did not respond to a request for comment.
The link to his legal name on Facebook yields a message saying, “This content isn't available at the moment.”
“When this happens, it's usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people or changed who can see it, or it's been deleted.”
Vancouver community activist Barb Snelgrove said controversies around name usage on Facebook are nothing new.
“I find this one particularly preposterous,” she said. “Joe Average has been using that name and moniker as long as I can remember. There are certain performers and artists who don’t use their real names and there doesn’t seem to be and issue with that.
“There is nothing average about Joe and his ability to use that name should remain as such.”
She added: “It’s beyond dumb.”
Average is renowned for his vibrant, colourful artwork featuring images of people, flowers, insects and animals.
The Victoria-born artist’s often cartoon-like images have adorned Vancouver buildings, buses and street signs.
One of his designs, which appeared on a coin released by the Royal Canadian Mint, symbolizes the progress Canadian lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people have achieved in recent years as well as what work remains to be done to solidify those rights.
Diagnosed with HIV when he was 27, Average decided to devote the rest of his life to his art. Since then, Average has been recognized for his work many times.
“He is world-renowned,” Snelgrove said. “He has an Order of British Columbia, the highest possible merit award provincially, in that name.”
He also won the Caring Canadian Award in 1998 and the Queen's Golden Jubilee Silver Medal for Outstanding Community Achievement in 2002.
On November 3, 2002, former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen issued a civic proclamation designating the day as "Joe Average Day" in the city.
Average's works are in the permanent collections of the Burnaby Art Gallery, the University of Victoria’s Maltwood Museum, Simon Fraser University Gallery, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.