On Monday, 4 October 2021, a big part of the digital world stood still for a few, precious hours when Facebook and its other Apps WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger went down. While the shock and anger of many victims could be overcome, the question remains: What happened? E&M Lisa O’ Leary takes a satirical look at the recent social media outage. 

Come with me, if you will, on a journey to another land and imagine, if you can, THIS:

You are a billionaire tech giant with more money than sense. You’re so god damn rich you no longer have a conscience! Billions of people think you’re some kind of tech demigod and despite consistent avalanches of absolute shit shows, you’re STILL HERE and getting paid!

THEN…..then. Someone – a close colleague – decides “screw this” and bails.  Before you have time to react, they’re all over world media outing you as a fraud. A meddler. A doer of ill deeds. A scourge on society. A menace to us all!

It’s ugly.

So: …What do you do?

I have asked myself this question many times since. “What would I do if I was betrayed in this – let’s be honest – “medieval” way? The rational, sane side of my brain decides to suck it up, roll with punches and look to a new day.

But we’re not talking about the rational and sane here, are we?

No. We’re talking about people whose career was born out of creating an online service for students to judge the attractiveness of their fellow students. A platform that taunted human insecurities, celebrated beauty standards and forced a culture of comparisons. A service for public shaming and humiliation. Whatever could go wrong?

So, if your online, modern-day colosseum were to suddenly find itself being threatened, what would you do?

That’s right. You’d pull the plug. Just for a few hours. Just to remind everyone who’s boss. I realise this is speculation bordering on conspiracy, but we’ve all entertained this thought if only for a few seconds at some point, right? ‘Because SOMETHING is going down over at Zuckerberg headquarters and no one is any bit closer to the answer then when it all started!

 “The deeper concern with an outage like this isn’t how many people switch to competitive services or how much money we lose, but what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities.” (Mark Zuckerberg, Oct 6, full text here)  Translation: you need us more than we need you. Don’t go getting any ideas.

In one swift move – sorry – “online outage” – WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram became no longer available to us all and, suddenly, we were very aware of the little power we actually had over our communication access. Personally, I had very little to loose (damn) but for others, peoples entire businesses, their main source of income and livelihoods came crashing down in the few minutes it took to happen. For a few hours, like a spell being broken, the world realised how much it depended on a company that is itself, on tenterhooks.

In hindsight, the outage has shown us all how alike social media is to any other capitalist entity out there. Unreliable and corrupt. Should we really be depending so heavily on a service that has shown itself to be a danger to our business, our brands and the mental wellbeing of young people everywhere?

No. Facebook and its sister apps may have manually reset themselves for now, but if this outage was an attempt to show us who’s boss? The answer will soon become very known – and my bet, is on The People.

 

 

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    Lisa O' Leary is a freelance video producer and writer originally from Ireland, now living in Hamburg. She studied Multimedia Communications in Ireland and Human Rights Law & Film abroad.  She has a passion for impact storytelling and mostly produces video content for NGOs or documentaries.

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