‘It was scary at first’: social media users on the Facebook outage

Three people tell how they were affected by the temporary loss of the site, and WhatsApp and Instagram

Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram experienced an outage that left users around the world unable to access the social media platforms for nearly six hours on Monday and Tuesday.

The outage was one of the worst Facebook has experienced, with the company blaming faulty configuration changes on its routers for the extended disruption.

Three people speak about how the outage affected them – with social media users describing it as both a positive and negative few hours.

‘I panicked about getting in touch with my family abroad’

Burcu Avci
Burcu Avci: ‘I am looking forward to the day we remove Facebook altogether from our lives’ Photograph: Burcu Avci

“I noticed that my main communication channels with my family who live in Turkey had vanished. Even during lockdown I did not have such a panicked moment, worrying about living in different countries and not being able to keep in touch. I use WhatsApp groups to keep in touch with immediate and extended family – we message on a daily basis. Whenever there’s a health problem or emergency, the news always drops on WhatsApp immediately – it’s a lifeline.

“When I noticed the outage, I sent an email to my sister and mother, asking them to download Discord as our new chat platform. My 66-year-old mum was able to set up a Discord channel – so the outage increased our technical capability. She is becoming more and more tech savvy – she immediately sent me a WhatsApp message when the outage was over.

“It was scary at first seeing how much we rely on these apps, and then it was empowering to find an alternative immediately. I was happy to stay away from the Facebook ecosystem, but my mum said ‘I tried it out, now let’s continue with the old habits’ when the platforms were running. I am looking forward to the day we remove Facebook altogether from our lives. I’ve followed its impact on the US elections, the ethical problems of its advertisements and fake news.”
Burcu Avci, 36, designer, living in Belgium

‘We have to find a backup social media platform’

Bariq Ilham
Bariq Ilham: ‘I felt a bit stressed, and started panicking’ Photograph: Bariq Ilham

“I was working on a group assignment that night with a few of my classmates via WhatsApp, coordinating what would be our roles for the presentation and how to divide each part evenly. Then suddenly I realised my messages were failing to send. We only use WhatsApp for communication – I don’t have any of their emails. I felt a bit stressed, and started panicking, thinking ‘oh God, we’ve got to hand it in tomorrow’. But then I decided to go to bed, thinking we can work on it tomorrow morning.

“The next morning we managed to continue our work. The outage delayed our work for a few hours, but we managed to finish it before the deadline. If WhatsApp hadn’t come back online, it would have been a bit hopeless – I’m not sure what we would have done. We have to find another social media platform to communicate in case something like this happens again.”
Bariq Ilham, 21, university student, Indonesia

‘It was peaceful and liberating’

Carole Judd with her husband and son
Carole Judd with her husband and son: ‘You kind of forget how intrusive these things are’ Photograph: Carole Judd/Guardian Community

“I was due to have a WhatsApp chat with a couple of friends on Monday evening, and we figured out between us that it was down. I was pleased in a way, because my son is here from India, and he’s not often here. No one was on their phones and we had a nice game of Cluedo. We found it quite peaceful and liberating really.

“It’s quite weird, you kind of forget how intrusive these things are. My son’s wife lives in India, so he’s on the phone on WhatsApp to her all the time – it’d be difficult for him without that sort of thing. And if he’s there, that’s what we use to communicate with him.

“I use Facebook several times a week, especially Marketplace. I don’t use it as much as I used to – you used to get more posts from friends if they’re out and about, doing this or that. With Covid, when you’re weren’t allowed to do anything, or if you are out doing something you’re not supposed to, people stopped posting. I’m not sure they’ve got back into the habit of it.”
Carole Judd, 58, from Dorset, UK


Clea Skopeliti and Rachel Obordo

The GuardianTramp

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