Somebody call Alan Jackson. It’s time for a “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” Part II to mark the day that Facebook died.
Will it be back? Certainly. The question is more of when, rather than if. But all indicators point to the platform being down for a while.
This is the largest crash of the social media website since 2008, when a bug took Facebook down for a whole day. This outage seems to be much larger in scope, though, as other social media platforms owned by Facebook—Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger—are also down.
Interestingly enough, many people took to Twitter to gleefully dance on Facebook’s grave.
Odd. I was told Facebook was the public square, essential for free speech, and a monopoly not even a week ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was even told that people have “a right” to be on Facebook. You’d think there would be more weeping and gnashing of teeth over this all-powerful loss in our society.
Instead, we merely see people migrating to one of the platform’s competitors, whose presence it must be emphasized means Facebook is not a monopoly. I, for one, still seem quite able to express my views in the form of speech without government persecution, which would indicate the First Amendment can indeed thrive without Facebook. And I have to think that were Facebook actually the public square and essential in our political process that the vast majority of these people would not be hoping it stays down.
In actuality, the outage just proves what people in my camp have said all along. Those mad at Facebook (or other Big Tech companies) predominantly fall into three camps: they hate large companies because they hate success, they do not actually believe in free speech when it does not benefit them, and/or they only support capitalism when it goes their way.
Facebook has never been the public square. The public square is at one’s state capitol, town council meetings, or school board meetings. And I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people who claim that Facebook is the public square have never actually stepped foot in one of those places, or meaningfully participated in the political process.
Posting on Facebook is a way to feel that one is participating in politics without actually getting your hands dirty. That isn’t to say that social media is not an important tool in the political process. It can, of course, be used to educate, organize, and amplify work in the field. But too many people have come to believe that merely sounding off on social media is some form of civic duty. Let’s be clear: it is not.
In fact, due to the social media platforms’ algorithms, most people are cocooned in their bubble online—meaning they neither see nor reach people who hold different opinions than them. This achieves nothing.
Today’s outage should serve as an important reminder that Facebook is merely one way we can express our views. There are plenty of other options that we can and should be utilizing to actually effect change, and many of those avenues would be much healthier and lead to more positive outcomes to boot.
Go befriend someone in the opposite political party. Have respectful conversations. Volunteer for a nonprofit. Lobby for a bill. Take the time you’re not currently spending on Facebook to accomplish something real.