On October 4, 2021, the world experienced a social media catastrophe: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for seven hours. People became frantic, gathering on platforms not connected to Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire (such as Twitter, TikTok, and Reddit) to express their thoughts. Most significantly, society’s response to this blackout sheds light on how dependent on social media some people have become.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Suvrat Bhargave, states that our attachment to social media can mirror an actual addiction. “If your body at some point doesn’t get what it’s gotten used to, then you can certainly have a withdrawal-like effect,” he says. This is likely what was experienced after our major form of entertainment went dark that day, resulting in extreme frustration and boredom for so many of us.
When first realizing that our favorite distractions were not going to be available for use, many people felt not only bored but lonely and isolated. Social media is no longer an avenue solely for “artificial” conversation. It has become such a staple in our lives that for some, these apps are now a necessity for a deeper connection. For people who live in different areas of the world, apps like Facebook and WhatsApp are used daily to connect with those closest to them. This includes sharing posts and messages as usual but also talking on the phone or video chatting with loved ones. When announcing that the social media sites were being revived, Zuckerberg tweeted, “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online now. Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about.”
In this digital age, social media is not simply used for social connection; it is used for business purposes as well. It has become a major avenue of communication in the professional world. Companies may use the apps to connect with clients, and organizations use them to spread important information. These entities found themselves unable to perform their responsibilities during the blackout.
The response to the social media blackout on October 4th showed us how truly dependent we have become on our favorite communication apps. During the blackout, one Twitter user even remarked, “If WhatsApp isn’t back by tomorrow, is it a holiday?” From keeping us entertained, connected with friends and family, and on task in our professional lives, access to social media is now a necessity for most. Thankfully, it did come back and fairly soon at that.