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SHANE BROWN: We survived the Great Facebook Outage of 2021
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SHANE BROWN: We survived the Great Facebook Outage of 2021

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Shane Brown, classified advertising and columnist.

Congratulations, everybody. We made it.

There are times in life that try our souls. Events beyond our control can push us to the brink of oblivion. It's then and there we see our true selves and realize the fragility of mankind. But somehow, with persistence and fortitude, we manage to survive. Somehow, humanity musters the strength to soldier through suffering and adversity, and we live to fight another day. Proudly, we persevere.

That's right — we made it a whole five hours without Facebook.

On Monday, technical issues took down Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp for most of the afternoon. According to a headline in Tuesday's New York Times, "lives were disrupted." The world descended into madness. Chaos reigned supreme. Anarchy spilled into the streets. Pandemonium was everywhere.

Well, except my office, apparently. I had no clue about the outage until I went to check a scheduled post on our newspaper's social media feed. Instead, I found myself staring at a white screen and an infinite hourglass icon. "Bummer," I said to myself. "Facebook must be down." By the time I got off work and checked again, everything was hunky-dory again. Clearly, my life had been irreparably and irreversibly disrupted.

Based on the news coverage of the outage, you'd think we were minutes away from the full collapse of Western civilization. Yes, life would forever be altered because for one brief afternoon, none of us could share pictures of our cats with people who Facebook calls our "friends" but in reality are more like "people we don't actively hate, whose existence we are somewhat aware of."

Once upon a time, we all got on fine without Facebook. You know, back in the olden days when you had to walk a mile through the snow if you wanted to show someone a photo of your cat.

I love aimless road trips, whether it's a vacation or a spontaneous escape where you end up in Beloit at 4 a.m. for no good reason. For decades, I would do this not just without Facebook, but without a cell phone altogether. I couldn't IMAGINE such a thing today. It seems completely insane and unsafe to travel even yards from your house without your phone.

The other day, I went to work and forgot my phone on the kitchen counter. I could barely focus. Even though my phone seldom leaves my pocket when I'm at work, I couldn't stop thinking about it. On my first break, I had to run home and get it. Without it, I felt like a contestant on a reality survivalist show.

I used to happily go about my business without a portable Facebook machine in my pocket. No one ever saw photos of my cats. I never felt the need to take glamour shots of my dinner. Twenty years later, we now live in a reality where Facebook and Instagram go down for an single afternoon and it makes national news. It was touch-and-go for a bit, but I somehow made it through the afternoon without a single status update from Kim Kardashian.

If I thought I had it bad, imagine my poor uncle down in Alabama. Somehow, he had to go five whole hours without sharing 72 different ways that Joe Biden's destroying the country. He spent an entire afternoon unable to call me a mask-wearing Communist snowflake even once. That poor guy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Facebook. I spend a ton of time on social media. I like silly memes, hearing from friends, and seeing the cool kids from my high school slowly turning old, fat, and bald. Sure, there's bad facets to social media, but blaming Facebook for its content would be like blaming the postal service whenever an annoying offer to extend my car's warranty shows up in the mail.

I like Facebook just fine, but I don't think a five hour outage should "disrupt your life" in any meaningful way unless your last name is Zuckerberg. We're now 1.5 years into a pandemic that made us hide in our homes. We should be old hats at life disruptions by now.

If Facebook crashes again, I think I'll be OK. You see, I learned something Monday. You know that portable Facebook machine in your pocket? It turns out you can use that same machine to punch in some numbers and CALL those same friends and talk to them with that eating-hole thingamajig below your nose. I call it Facemouth.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to ring up 172 people and describe my cats to them in great detail.


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