Social Media in 2012: Facebook Goes Down, Inspires Panic

by Jordan Richardson on December 11, 2012

It was a window of about 20 to 25 minutes, but Facebook’s outage on Monday inspired reams of panicked tweets and outcries from the masses. This came just a little while after a Gmail outage on the same day.

This is far from the biggest outage Facebook has ever had, with a September of 2010 outage registering in the range of two and a half hours. It was the first major outage since October of 2012, which pretty much only affected European users, and follows the November 2012 outage of a few minutes.

In each case, the outcry over the outage was predictable. People took to Twitter and any other social networking site imaginable to complain, using jokes about Mayan predictions and productivity spikes to entertain themselves while they waited to get back on Facebook.

This appears to be a cultural cycle, one that finds most users spending hours of each day volleying from social media site to social media site. When one link in the chain goes down, even for a few minutes, some users may even panic. We’ve talked about this sense of disconnection before and how it can inspire anxiety, but this is never presented with more clarity than when one of the social media titans goes down.

While users tweeted about their fears or their personal preferences in terms of social media sites, bloggers offered up-to-the-minute updates as to when Facebook would come back around. Some sites featured posts that essentially said “Yep, still down” for the entire duration until Zuckerberg’s baby made itself reappear.

Many users have also turned to forced irony to cope, histrionically bemoaning their lack of access to posting “selfies” (please stop using that term) and stalking exes in an effort to generate some humour. But how much of this is irony and how much is reality? Are we losing something in our dependency on social media? Can we not even tolerate 20 or so minutes without self-presentation?

It would seem that, at the very least, being “disconnected” from what has now become the standard in social networking is a challenge for many users. That a website’s outage becomes international news is probably evidence in and of itself as to the power and panic Facebook and its brethren can inspire.

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