23 Feb 2011 Update: Reports from users, as well as my own research, suggest that Facebook has restructured how “test account” works and the solution I found last fall no longer works. I have a support email out to them, as well as some inquiries on their forums. I will report back here if I find anything out; please feel free to do the same in the comments! I also urge all of you to contact Facebook — if becoming a test account is no longer reversible, that is a real calamity.
I did something so utterly alarming earlier today, and it took me so much effort to figure out how to undo it, that I feel obligated to post the solution here. I accidentally made my main, established, personal Facebook account into a “test account”. Doing this makes it impossible to interact with anything but other test accounts, so suddenly all of my friends disappeared and to all of my friends I seemed to disappear.
It turns out that “becoming a test account” just means joining the Facebook Test Account Network. So all you have to do is leave that network in order to get all of your contacts back. You can do this by clicking “Account” in the upper right of the site. Under that, click “Account Settings”. Once there, go to the second tab that says “Networks”. You should see the Test Account network listed there with a link to “leave network”. Once you leave, all of your contacts and content will be restored.
I am currently working on a project where I need to test the output of some specially-crafted Facebook “like” links. Not wanting to post what I was testing to my real Facebook profile, I asked a developer friend of mine about the proper way to make a test account. He sent me a link to Facebook’s page “Test Accounts for App Developers”.
Notice that I did not link the phrase above. I’m not going to link to it until the end of this post in the hopes that you, dear reader, will actually read through all of it and not make the same mistake I did. Upon arriving at the page, I saw this text, “To make a test account, register on Facebook as you normally would. Then, when logged in to the test account, go to this URL:” followed by a link.
When I read “register on a Facebook as you normally would”, I thought they meant as I normally would as an individual. I had never made a fake account before as I’d been led to think that was poor form. How was I to know they meant “register A FAKE ACCOUNT on Facebook as you normally would”?
So I clicked, and suddenly found myself in FB Limbo. I could see my feed, I could see people’s posts, but I couldn’t interact with them and they couldn’t interact with me. It was like being a ghost! On Facebook.
After searching the internet for over an hour — rather frantically, I admit — I found a conversation called Facebook Test Accounts on [Facebooker-Talk]. I admit I found that page rather early on, but couldn’t figure out what they meant — I wasn’t thinking of my primary account as a test account, so the language tripped me up. I emailed one of the participants and he redirected me right back to the same conversation. So I read a little more carefully.
Incidentally, there is another page on the Facebook site that is a little more sufficiently alarming than the one I stumbled upon. Neither of them has a confirmation screen of any kind, which maybe they could use? Here they both are: