On Surviving the Great Facebook Blackout of 2021


Stop all the clocks, my Instagram isn’t refreshing. On Monday some of Facebook’s servers crashed and endless global scroll was momentarily halted. For six hours of offline purgatory, 3.5 billion (WTF!) users were unable to see one another’s lunches (Instagram), or group dunk mutual foes (WhatsApp). Our booming elders were also denied access to their weapon of mass disinformation (Facebook).

The apps stopped and I’d never been so acutely aware of time passing; it was worse than the hours I spent watching the Cats movie. Again and again my sad fingers mindlessly retapped the icons, my thumbs preprogrammed to twitch, my neural pathways somehow unable to comprehend the outage. Facebook, too, couldn’t quite work out the issue. (I believe employees do all their communication directly on Facebook Messenger, but, alas, the bugger was down.)

There was an exodus to Twitter, a.k.a. nirvana for people who believe they’re too cerebral for the bikini shots on the other apps. Twitter had a trenches atmosphere: We were all doing jokes, but there was a rising dread, a burgeoning awareness that despite our rather full lives, the crashed server had left us at somewhat of a loose end.

I got a bit annoyed at all the people clapping and jeering. The “thumbs down to big tech” people tend to grind my gears, but they were insufferable on Twitter in the gloaming of the outage. I know the internet is a good/bad place where good/bad things happen. It keeps us connected over unfathomable distances, it keeps us buying things we don’t need. We can find ourselves laughing in unison, but it’s also where people become radicalized. So, if you’re down on Instagram, if you’re anti-Facebook, maybe opt out? Social media isn’t compulsory; it isn’t school, it’s not military service or Thanksgiving with your family. It’s here to serve you and, honesty, it’s okay to unplug if you don’t feel great about it. If you’re comparing yourself to others in a way that erodes your sense of self, take a time out, take a sabbatical, take a gap year. Bounce, block, mute, delete. Take great lungfuls of fresh outside air. The internet will still be here if you want to come back, and you’ll be surprised how little you’ve missed.

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