The effects of a social media blackout
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 2013
On October 21, Facebook users experienced a brief outage caused by network maintenance. Although recovery was swift and the team at Facebook was quick to apologize, I couldn’t ignore the uproar of such an occurrence. Am I crazy to be concerned about such a minuscule problem?
I need to step back for a moment and remember my life before social media: before Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, and even Nexopia. I was a 14-year-old high school student waiting patiently for a phone call on a Saturday afternoon. I was in grade eight, procrastinating over homework by watching television and taking naps. But how would I behave now, a decade later? Would my life be any different?
Facebook is more than just a tool to communicate with friends and plan events: businesses use it to market, and people use it as a news source. There is a lot of other noise buzzing about on social media, like adorable cat pictures, inspirational quotes, and public displays of affection, and these would be the greatest loss; Facebook allows us to share little slices of life any time we want.
Social media is a casual means of communication. Phone calls have become too intrusive, emails feel too professional, and meeting in person is too time-consuming. For me, the first real consequence of social media’s demise would be a sudden increase in text messaging.
As time passed and Facebook remained broken, I’d begin to lose contact with certain people. Those “friends” and “followers” who aren’t affecting my real life would fade away. That random girl at the bar, my science fair partner in high school, and the manager at the restaurant where I worked for a few months one summer would all be gone. You might be a “friend” on Facebook, but if you don’t have my number, we’re not really friends in my book. Sorry.
Because of social media, the act of verbally catching up is virtually obsolete: job promotions, new relationships, and exotic vacations are all displayed online for everyone to see. Without this, people at parties would spend more time indulging others with “what’s new,” and less time simply saying, “Oh, you know.” No, I don’t know—how would I know?
There is no doubt that my Facebook persona is much cooler than the real me. That’s because I only publicize good things. I have full control, where I don’t have full control of real life. The Internet is a marketplace and I’m the brand. I have to make my Facebook page cool. I go on trips and take photographs, I share interesting content and creations, and I interact with my “friends” even though I barely ever get to see them. I make all those things happen.
I’d like to believe that without Facebook, I’d still act the same. To me, the platform is nothing more than a scrapbook. Sure, it’s nice to look back and see what other people have been up to, but I’d rather look ahead. Because in the future, there might be a solar flare that would erase all the material online—then what will we “like?”