Mayday! Mayday! Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all went down on Monday.
There was an hours-long outage across these social media platforms. No posting, no scrolling, no refreshing of screens. So, I took to Twitter to read all about it.
Ironically, the outage occurred as more news was coming out about a Facebook whistleblower.
Frances Haugen has released thousands of pages of internal research on the company, outlining the harmful effects Instagram is having on the body image of teenage girls and the use of disinformation to keep users on Facebook longer.
You don’t say! Please say more, and she did.
Haugen also testified before a Senate panel on Tuesday. She said enough for me to put my phone down for a few days, to give social media a break. And it’s an emergency for most of us.
There are numerous studies that attest to the link between increased social media usage and depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and loneliness. According to one study, we should cut our social media usage down to 30 minutes per day.
The Cleveland Clinic says there are several signs that point to the need for a break to include, “You start scrolling without realizing it. You spend A LOT of time scrolling. It’s the first thing you check in the morning and the last thing you check at night.”
Guilty, guilty, guilty.
I could argue that it is a part of my job but that would just be an excuse to stay on longer, to keep scrolling. I am sure that it is a coping mechanism.
I started to spend more time on my phone during the pandemic. I also added flatscreen televisions in my living and dining room, added internet (yes, internet) and lots of streaming services. There is even a Google Assistant in my kitchen.
I’m an introvert but an avid people-watcher. I probably bought them to replace the faces I wouldn’t see during my morning commute to D.C. or on my lunch break. It’s not an excuse. I’m just thinking about how I got this way.
It started as a home improvement project but turned into a way to keep me safe, nurtured, entertained and informed during the pandemic. I started thinking, “What if we can’t go outside? What if the movie theater closes? What if I run out of this or suddenly need that?”
Home now serves also as an office, a restaurant, an ice cream truck, a retreat center, a gym and yoga studio, command bunker and movie theater.
So much to account for, I kept bringing things in to include more comfortable pillows and blankets.
It is the anxiety of being in a pandemic, the perpetual state of grief that we all find ourselves in. It is the need to comfort myself in any and every way possible, though there are losses that I cannot account for and hurts I cannot get to.
So, I pick up my phone and scroll through other people’s carefully crafted stories and posts for some sense of normalcy.
But that is denial, and I cannot go on pretending, hiding from reality by staring at a screen. Because that’s what Facebook wants me to do, and I refuse to let its creators win.
Let’s take a break and practice sabbath as resistance like Walter Brueggemann writes about. He says in the preface of his book by the same name, “For the most part, contemporary Christians pay little attention to the Sabbath.”
He’s right. Maybe we needed a cue, a hint or a signal.
So, let the outage serve as sign to us all, a lightning strike across the internet. Join me in a social media break.
Let’s support each other and hold each other accountable for using it only 30 minutes each day. According to Haugen, it will be good for us.