The social media blackout on 4 October called into question how much we rely on social media platforms.
4 October saw our social lives flash before our eyes before disappearing almost entirely for the rest of the day. Down in minutes yet out for hours, Facebook’s apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook itself, among smaller apps, crashed and burned, leaving many of us without a method of communication. With so many ways of being able to get in touch with our colleagues, friends and family these days, it came as a surprise for us to realise how much we relied on social media to have these personal engagements. More than 3.5 billion people worldwide use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp on a daily basis. Granted, everyone was affected differently, some more than others, but the question still remains: can we, in the 21st century, function without these platforms?
I, like many others, rely on WhatsApp and Messenger as my main platforms for communication, and Facebook and Instagram as sources of information and a mindless scroll to pass some time. The crash of all of these apps at once was a bit of a nightmare. Being so far away from home at the moment, WhatsApp is how I keep in touch with my family and closest friends, and how my parents stop worrying if I’m okay. If I had been in a situation where I had no phone signal and only had WiFi, I would have been stuck and my mum would have been panicking that I wasn’t responding. As for Messenger and Facebook, they are the rocks of my social life. There’s so many people that I communicate with through Messenger that I either have no other contact for at all or my only other point of contact would be Instagram (but guess what? That was down too!). I am practically a professional worrier, so I was lucky that I wasn’t trying to make any immediate plans or waiting on any replies.
I’ll be honest, for me, it really wasn’t that bad. I returned to a good old fashioned phone call to talk to my parents and I dealt with the messages that eventually came in the next morning, but if the crash had been over several days I definitely would have struggled. I currently live alone, so I crave as much social interaction as I can get. Others with a similar living situation to myself were probably in the same boat. Suddenly, I had to find other ways to fill my night in an attempt to stop feeling isolated and lonely – fortunately Netflix and an extra blanket did the trick. I had to hope that there were no emergencies or urgent messages from colleagues in the school that I’m working in. In fact, that evening I had received my first installment of my grant for working as an English Language Assistant abroad, but couldn’t tell the other assistants, who were also awaiting this payment. Being unable to contact people from work made me realise how reliant my job is on social networks, as are most people’s jobs. Luckily, everything turned out okay for me.
For many people, social media is their whole life and livelihood – their career, their hobby, their relaxation, their form of communication. While this crash wasn’t the end of the world, it goes to show how quickly our social lives and communication can be turned completely upside down.