Where were you during the great social media blackout of October 2021? I was getting ready for a Reaction subscriber dinnerthinking our work group chat had fallen strangely quiet. As I got on the bus I opened Instagram and tried unsuccessfully to refresh my homepage. Something was up. I turned to trusty Twitter to confirm my suspicions: Facebook had gone offline.
At around 4pm on Monday 4 October, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram stopped working, impacting more than 3.5 billion users worldwide. Facebook later explained that the social media platforms had been brought offline by a “faulty configuration change which not only impacted the websites and apps, but also affected the company’s internal tools,” but the internet wasn’t so sure. Unverified information spread like wildfire across Twitter; Facebook had “gone” never to return.
The brief respite from Facebook’s dominance of our online lives split people into two categories; the archaic (blissfully unaware anything was happening) and the addicted (panicked at the prospect of being offline). But across the board, the “digital apocalypse” left people wondering what life would look like if the rumours were true and Facebook didn’t come back?