What If Social Media Simply Vanishes One Day?

Yesterday Facebook and its tribes (Instagram, Whatsapp) experienced a few hours of complete outage. The cause was a config file that blocked routing to the Facebook servers. It would have been an easy fix to revert that, if Facebook wouldn’t use only Facebook infrastructure, meaning when they cut themselves out from routing, they also cut themselves out from the possibility to inform that this was a mistake. Won’t go into details, but it was something like blocking the doors of your car while the key was in the trunk.

One takeaway from this event is that Facebook is incredibly closed. Of course, we all know their user-facing policies, in which once you’re a Facebook user, all your data belongs to them. But this reveals a level of secrecy and self-reliance (in the bad sense of the word) really hard to fathom. It’s literally an island, and that has ripples in the physical world, during the outage some employees couldn’t even use their badge to enter the offices buildings.

The second takeaway is that, for a brief period of time, a few hours, the world was less angry. People probably smiled more. Some of them turned to platforms like Twitter (who brilliantly trolled everyone by posting this: “hello literally everyone”) or just looked out their windows, instead of looking into their phones. There was a sense of relaxation, and less tension.

But, at the same time, something else happened. Thousands of influencers were brutally deplatformed, in the sense that the platform itself disappeared. Massive advertising budgets were halted. Many businesses were suddenly cut away from their clients. There was a huge financial cost just because some routing parameters were wrongly set and then sent away.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where the biggest amount of attention is harvested by anger and fear. Not only harvested, but cultivated, and, in many situations, artificially inflated. Because more anger equals more attention spent, equals more money spent, equals more profit. That’s why “Facebook just works”. It’s still the biggest attention harvester in the world.

We’re still in a teenage period, as a tech-enabled species, a period in which tantrums are the dominant method of establishing our sense of identity, in which attention begging is the major driver for our daily activities. Just like a teenager, we feel entitled when we’re angry, for no other reason at all.

I wonder what would happen if social media would suddenly disappear. On one hand, we will certainly smile more. On the other one, we may have to struggle because the way we do business online must change, and that change will come at a significant cost.

At the end of the day, the biggest challenge is to understand that our attention is our biggest asset.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash




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