The other day I went to open Facebook on my phone. I don’t like to admit it, but I routinely check Facebook as it gives me a glimpse of the day’s news and of my family’s and friends’ activities.
I waited, waited some more, and then realized Facebook wasn’t opening. No big deal. I tried opening the site with my Macbook. Again, nothing. I can’t say I was worried or shocked, just a little confused.
Not to worry, I thought. I can message my friends on WhatsApp. Again, nothing. Now I was getting a little worried. I checked the news and noticed a flurry of articles saying, “Facebook is down!” One site even used all caps. Shit was serious.
I was past worried and started to freak out. I tried other social media channels and the same happened — no response, no network, nothing.
What’s going on? Why are all the social media channels down? Have they been hacked?
And that’s when I woke up. It was all a bad dream, one that’s probably not even possible. I mean, I know I could have used email, or texted, or — God forbid — even have called my friends and family. But in my dream, social media shutting down seemed like a very real and apocalyptic scenario, one that would make anyone dependent on social media (which is quite a few of us) freak out!
An Apocalyptic Social Media Shutdown
In 2010, Facebook did shut down for many of its users for around three hours. People posted after the event, with many expressing fear and disappointment.
Robert Johnson, a former employee of Facebook, posted after the event that “Facebook was down…for approximately 2.5 hours.”
The ex-employee said further, that “an automated system for verifying configuration values ended up causing much more damage than it fixed.”
This means that the system that was relied on to fix a technical issue actually did the opposite and broke a technical issue, causing the world wide web of Facebook to be down completely for users around the world.
One user posted a comment on the update, saying,
“[Facebook] basically disabled my tablet and phone. I couldn’t connect to any online sites.. I find that disturbing that Facebook has the power to disable my devices with an update. I couldn’t connect to any networks. Not even my email…which Facebook doesn’t own. Facebook scares me more and more…”
And just recently in September three more shutdowns occurred. Facebook, Instagram, and the Facebook-dependent app Tinder, was down for a few hours.
A Facebook spokesperson told Mashable that the source of the problem was “a configuration issue,” and that the issue would be fixed soon.
Shortly afterwards, many users took to Twitter to break the news:
— Sarah Brewer (@BrewerVASocial) September 29, 2015
Many users also expressed their feelings about the shutdown, with some not able to cope with the meltdown:
— TheLADbible (@TheLadBible) September 28, 2015
How Could a Shutdown Happen?
As we learned in 2010, “automated systems” that are relied on to fix an issue can actually worsen problems.
A seemingly simple “configuration issue” can cause multiple apps to breakdown, putting the entire social network out of control. Apps like Tinder that rely on other social media sites could face serious problems if or when their connection is cut. Even news sites that rely on social media for exposure and engagement could face serious problems if social media was down.
And this can happen pretty easily, and suddenly.
For example, if thousands — or millions — of people visited a webpage at the same time, the site could experience an overload and crash. This happens frequently when Reddit attracts a large amount of visitors to a site, which is adequately called a “Reddit hug of death.”
— Shay Meinecke (@ShayMeinecke) September 30, 2015
This can also be performed by hackers who use an “army of zombies” to perform the same action, but with criminal intent.
If a social media giant like Facebook were to be on a hit-list, their fate could be similar.
You’re Probably Dependent on Social Media, Like it or Not
Facebook has around 1.5 billion active monthly users. That means almost 20 percent of the entire population uses Facebook on a monthly basis. The number of users on a daily basis are equally staggering and climbing every day.
Some of the most downloaded apps in 2014 were Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. All of these are owned by Facebook and could potentially be a target for hackers or governments not dependent on western social media, which could include North Korea and China.
Sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ also attract a staggering amount of daily and monthly users, have shown to have similar amounts of daily and monthly users, and are downloaded a record-breaking amount.
Much of the world is dependent on social media, whether you want to admit it or not.
Would you say you’re dependent on social media? Would you freak out if one of the big social media sites broke down for good? Tell us in the comments below…