18 Mar Did #FacebookDown prove we’re all addicted to social media?
Last week, Facebook and all of its associated products suffered an outage of up to fourteen hours. The largest global outage in the company’s history, it was blamed on a “server configuration change”. But more interesting than the fact a tiny server change could take out all of Facebook’s products was the global reaction that the outage caused. Fourteen hours is a relatively small time period, but users swarmed to Twitter for hours – outraged about downtime on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
If nothing else, the downtime of three of the world’s most popular internet services emphasised the fact that they’re all owned by one giant cooperation. Reactions to the downtime illustrated the reach of power that one single company has on billions across the globe.
Facebook’s growing global dominance of the last 15 years is sometimes easy to forget, shadowed maybe by press stories which focus on issues like data protection and governance. However, episodes such as this outage bring it back into perspective with stark clarity; Facebook is an enormous and far-reaching organisation with an enormous global influence.
One of the greatest ironies of the entire episode was that these companies owned by Facebook were all forced to go over to ‘other’ social media networks (aka Twitter) in order to communicate with their users. Facebook and Twitter have both contributed to an obsessive ‘need for knowledge’ and 24:7 news updates, so Facebook understood that if its many services were down, users would want to know why. And there was only one place to go – Twitter (oh how they must have laughed at Twitter HQ).
An issue for the police?
If there was one news story that really showed the impact the outage had, it was Australian news programme Sunrise reporting that Queensland Police were requesting people ‘stop calling in’ about the outage, explaining that there was really nothing they could do.
As ludicrous as it seemed, this was at exactly the time that #FacebookDown, #InstagramDown and #WhatsAppDown were all trending on Twitter with social media users seemingly unable to talk about literally anything else.
Of course, there was more than a little humour in all of this, but it does highlight one telling issue. It seems that for many people it feels their wellbeing is almost entirely dependent on the services that Facebook offer. Whether that be a small business owner who is reliant on Facebook marketplace, a social media influencer who relies on brand collaborations via Instagram for income; or someone who uses Facebook Workplace to communicate with their clients and team. Perhaps lessons could be learnt about being purely reliant on social media for your business, or indeed, life needs? After all, if one server blip can cause a fourteen hour outage then social media platforms are clearly quite fragile – especially when so many are owned by just the one organisation.
Where do we go from here?
Across a wide swathe of the press coverage, and on Twitter, there was plenty of tongue-in-cheek in the reaction to the outage and the issues it caused. But it definitely exposed an under-the-surface gnawing anxiety; a dawning realisation that we have all become very, very, dependent on social media, and that this dependency has come about in a worryingly short space of time.
But there’s a bit of a step between being concerned about use of social media, and knowing how to go about fixing it. Maybe many of us are just in too deep to know where to start? At Time To Log Off, we have written extensively about the potential pitfalls of social media, and the addiction it can cause. We’re here to help.
So, get in contact if you feel you could benefit from a digital detox, or check out our podcast or our books. With a bit of help to work on social media reliance maybe next time Facebook’s down (because there’s bound to be a next time), relief might be your overwhelming reaction; rather than panic?
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