On 4 October last year, the social networks Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp stopped working for more than six hours. Hundreds of millions of users were forced offline for most of the day. We should note that Whatsapp currently has 2 billion active users, Facebook 2.7 billion, and Instagram 1.22 billion. This data is essential for grasping the scale of the event. It was the longest blackout in the history of communication.
The event was practically a cyber apocalypse. While some, in a state of hyperventilation, tried to update their phones unsuccessfully, thinking it was a personal problem, others searched Google for updates on what was going on.
Our addiction to technology was brought to light
Technology's hold on us became quite apparent. It’s an addiction that psychologists have been talking about for some time. As the minutes passed, anxiety and nervousness grew – both clear symptoms of digital addiction.
The ironical part of the story was that both Whatsapp and Facebook announced that the problem was affecting the whole planet…via their competitor Twitter
Taking notes during the event, in order to write this article, I was surprised that people were looking for the solution…on Twitter, Telegram, or Gmail.
We had to figure out how to make use of this “dead time” that grew with every passing painful minute.
We had two options: wait anxiously for everything to return to normal or dive into other ways of passing time that technology typically stops us from seeing.
The networks crumbled, but it wasn't the end of the world
There was a lot of buzz among influencers that day, since obviously they couldn’t get their work done on Instagram. Though, I’d like to imagine that to those who remained calm, they might’ve realized that face-to-face connection is more important than uploading quality content.
I’d like to think that all those teenagers who were once isolated in their bedrooms, surfing the web, decided to go outside that day and face the real world. It can be just as interesting as life online to have an uplifting chat with your parents, to study, or to play some games.
Next, I’d like to think about the mother of a family who’s consumed by the streams of messages she gets via Whatsapp when the workday ends…I hope she decided to sit and play a game with her kids instead.
Then, there’s that friend who only communicates via audio message, whose colleagues have gotten used to hitting the x2 button because they simply don't have the time to listen to him... that day, maybe he got the courage to just pick up the phone and make an actual phone call.
Perhaps, you might have reacted like I did: instead of spending the evening catching up on messages, updates, and stories on social media that day, I went to bed early! I read a book that I’d set aside a while back, resulting in a much sounder sleep than I’d had in a long time! I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to go.
I think it was a really useful lesson for everyone. We found ourselves in front of a gauge that measured our dependency on technology. It may be worthwhile for us all to take a closer look at our relationships with technology and make some changes accordingly.
So I leave you with this question: if this total blackout were to happen again, how would you invest your time? I expect brave answers!