What happens when the converged communications channels that link the world break down? Does the planet swing wildly out of its orbit, careening chaotically toward the sun? Not quite. But people around the world took notice earlier today when Facebook went down for the count just before noon EDT. Those who tried to go on the social media site received a dreaded “Sorry, something went wrong” message, as captured by the Florida Times-Union. And that meant panic. How much panic? Take a look at this tweet from the public information officer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department:
Yes, that’s right. It appears that at least one person, and maybe more, contacted the police about the Facebook outage – not the brightest idea in the world. Plus, Instagram was similarly sidelined by technical issues during the same period, sending two major social media networks offline.
It’s worth taking time to contemplate the effects of social media platforms like these – students who have taken COM3332 have probably spent plenty of time doing exactly that. They’re undeniably useful and help people to connect in real time, even over long distances. But for people who aren’t able to pull themselves away from their screens, it raises the question of whether social media may be doing more harm than good.