Yesterday started just like any other day. After snoozing my alarm five times and ignoring my grumbling stomach, I did what everyone does the second they wake up, and reached for my phone to do my morning ritual of wasting 30+ minutes by clicking through every social media platform — when tragedy struck.
“Connectivity issues. Please try again later.”
A stab to the heart. A pit in my stomach. I refreshed the page.
“Connectivity issues. Please try again later.”
Around 11:40 a.m. EST on October 4, Instagram and Facebook shut down, but this problem extended beyond the two apps. Facebook’s entire network of apps — including Facebook, Oculus, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat — experienced a slew of network errors, resulting in millions of users losing access to the social media apps that have become integrated into their everyday lives.
What kind of Mercury Retrograde B.S. was this?! This couldn’t be happening. What was I supposed to do with that extra 30 minutes now? Actually do my makeup and not look like a rat for my class? Maybe do an assignment or eat a balanced breakfast?
I think not.
It was time for crisis mode. I took to Twitter and typed “instagram down” as a cry for help into the void. This couldn’t have been happening to just me. This was an international travesty.
Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in my dismay. Thousands of tweets (and memes) from frantic social media users popped up from all over the Unites States, wondering what (or who) could be causing this national Facebook/Instagram blackout. From people dunking on Mark Zuckerberg and cheering for his downfall, to social media managers just trying their best to stay cool, I saw it all. We all wondered the same thing: If we couldn’t creep on our ex’s profiles today, what else are we supposed to do? Work? Ha. Ha. No.
After refreshing and restarting the Instagram app around 17 times, I finally crawled out of bed. Maybe this would be a good thing, I thought. Maybe it was time for me to unplug and focus on my day, free from distractions and the chokehold social media had on me — after all, The Social Dilemma warned us about the negative sides of social media, and Gen Z’s reliance (and even addiction) to apps like Instagram is no secret.
I locked my phone and got out of bed. I even made my bed. I felt like an adult for the first time ever and thought, “Maybe this whole no Instagram thing is a good thing for me, and humanity too. I don’t even rely on it that much.”
How naive I was.
Without my daily Instagram binge, I saved myself 10 minutes to make a bagel with cream cheese and begin my walk to class a little bit early. Feeling productive, I put in my AirPods and pressed shuffle on my Discover Weekly.
I was impressed. The first song that came on was cool, and I got to thinking, “Wow, if people knew I listened to this, they would think I was super cool.” So, without hesitation, I went into Spotify and clicked “Share to Instagram Story,” only to be faced with that dreaded, red circle around my avatar. “Failure to load.”
How would people think I was cool now? How would people appreciate my taste in music if I couldn’t share it to the masses? I am nothing.
The blackout stayed in the back of my head all day. During the breaks in my classes, I found myself entering the Instagram app only to find disappointment. I was like a monkey that wouldn’t stop sticking its fingers in an electrical outlet. At this point, I didn’t care about being off the grid or unplugged. I simply cared about knowing what that girl in my fourth grade science class was up to since she moved to Ohio when we were 11, and I wanted to find her on Instagram more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. But I couldn’t. And it was killing me all day.
I waited in line for Starbucks with no entertainment. I had to talk to people in the final minutes of class. I wondered if those two people I haven’t thought about since high school were still together.
I’ve never thought of myself as someone who depends on social media in the slightest. I’m the first one to brag about how I could go off the grid for weeks like a cavewoman and be happy as a clam. Who even uses Facebook anymore, besides our moms? But once I was living the reality, for those six fateful hours, I felt myself slowly descending into madness. I didn’t get anything done. It was all I could think about. And that’s really sad.
Now that I have Instagram back, I’m back on my annoyed, “f*ck social media” mindset, telling myself I wouldn’t even care if Instagram shut down tomorrow (even though we all know that’s a lie). After all, it’s a bit silly to be completely consumed by an app. Even though 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly,” according to 2020 data from the Pew Research Center, that doesn’t mean we’re not self-aware about how unhealthy that is. Perhaps today was a wakeup call: maybe it’s time for all of us to unplug and look up from our screens a little bit more. I know it was one for me.
But I think we can all agree that if TikTok shuts down, it’s a sign that the world is, indeed, coming to an end.