Those who were highly distressed by Facebook's hours-long outage Monday, Oct. 4, might need to re-examine their priorities.
"Traditional" addicts – those who abuse drugs or alcohol – recognize the signs of their illness when withdrawal occurs: physical shaking, irritability, muscle pain, nausea, high temperature, chills, bad dreams, headaches, heart palpitations, and excessive sweating. Evidently some of those symptoms came into play for several area residents who were unable to access their Facebook accounts for a long period of time.
That's not good – and that driving need to remain "connected" through social media signals a problem. Stepping back, those folks need to ask themselves how they occupied their time 20 years ago, before social media intruded upon their lives. And they might consider returning to some of those activities – at least, some of the time.
Why did this happen? According to those billionaires, "issues interrupted the flow of traffic between routers in Facebook's data centers around the world" and the disruption "had a cascading effect" on the way FB's data centers communicate." For some in the conspiracy community, Facebook was "testing the waters" to see just how much of an impact it has on the daily lives of its users. For others, it was to detract from the disclosures of a whistleblower who leaked internal research to Congress and the Wall Street Journal, then went on air with "60 Minutes."
When Facebook officials apologized for the "inconvenience," there's no doubt they understood what the ripple effect would mean. In a nutshell, the documents offered up by the whistleblower showed that FB executives were aware of the negative affects Instagram – another of its platforms – had on younger users. Worse yet, these tycoons knew their algorithm helped spread misinformation – something they publicly claimed they were trying to stop.
Once again, the proof is in the pudding that traditional, "mainstream" media have their feet held to the fire in terms of libel, defamation and privacy laws, whereas social media is free to run rampant in dispensing the most outrageous of lies. Politicians, tired of being reined in by regular media, have wet themselves in their haste to beat feet to social media platforms that will allow them to spread falsehoods about their opponents, without much fear of retribution.
Those in charge of the law – in other words, Congress and state legislatures – will be in no hurry to tamp down social media as long as they themselves can benefit. It will be up to the general public, as with anything else, to "walk with their feet," using the free market to send a strong message that we're tired of the lies, the divisiveness and the hate, and that we want something done about it.
And it's clear something does need to be done. The public, through its attachment to social media, has forced traditional media to lean heavily on these platforms to disseminate legitimate news. In some ways, it's been a boon, but in other ways, a curse – since so many people these days can't seem to tell the difference.
While several people notified the Tahlequah Daily Press in a panic about the loss of Facebook – which we knew already, of course – others used their "down time" to become more productive: to spend time with family, catch up on a hobby, make a phone call to a friend, actually do the work for which their employer pays them, or even read a community newspaper. And they later reported they rather enjoyed the disconnect, even if it was only temporary.
It's a lesson learned: Everyone should step back as often as possible from the double-edged blessing and curse social media has become. Real interactions with contributing members of a community – its mom-and-pop shops, its radio stations, its newspapers, its school teachers and nonprofit administrators – are what will keep us ginning along.