On Tuesday, 5th October, Instagram, WhatsApp, and their parent company Facebook experienced an outage lasting over six hours, causing billions of people to lose access to the social media apps.
The outage demonstrated just how important Facebook and its subsidiaries have become in daily life, not just for social sharing purposes, but for business, political affairs, communication, and even personal safety.
Many small business owners were particularly affected by the outage that rendered them unable to participate in the global marketplace for almost a full day, with a collective millions of dollars lost. Facebook itself lost an estimated $60 million in ad revenue from being offline for a mere handful of hours, with founder Mark Zuckerberg personally losing about $6 billion in net worth.
Social media has also become a crucial tool for communicating information to communities of people with limited access to news and services. Political campaigns were suspended, social services were interrupted, and public safety measures that employ the use of social messaging were delayed.
In parts of the world where access to cell service and public utilities are limited, WhatsApp has become the platform of choice for daily communication. Often cheaper than a phone call, messaging and calls on social media apps offer a more affordable and accessible alternative.
Outages are common when it comes to technology; the last significant outage happened in 2019, at that time lasting a full twenty-four hours. What was uncommon about Tuesday’s outage was the interruption of multiple apps across the globe and the exponential user growth that affected the lives of so many more citizens, especially those in less developed countries.
Social media goes well beyond content sharing and advertising; it has truly become an intrinsic part of our civilization. What’s abundantly clear after the outage of October 5th is that these platforms have become essential to the growth and development of many different aspects of society and culture.
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This article was originally featured on TaggerMedia.com on 5 October, 2021.