When Facebook Fails
The folks running Facebook have had a difficult week. Intermittent outages Wednesday and Thursday appear to have caused great angst and activated fears of social disconnection among millions of otherwise normal people.
I don’t know if it’s true but legend has it that the operators of Facebook, when confronted by angry mobs after one connection problem or another, responded that people should just chill because, “you get what you pay for.” This, of course, is true. Facebook is free.
Yet for 500 million users around the globe, the utility has become an ingrained part of their lives. So whether they’re using it to declare their undying love for their cat or pet lemur, or as a marketing tool to invite people to events or to point individuals to their blogs (that would be me), this free service has become important and in some ways, essential to their lives or businesses. But the Facebook people have a point. We are not paying for this thing. If it malfunctions, there is simply no way to get your money back.
A couple of things became very, very evident during the Facebook outages this week. After the site came back up, I saw numerous posts echoing the theme that American productivity very likely increased ten-fold during the outages. Every March of every year, you see the media breathlessly reporting that people tuning into the NCAA College basketball tournament are costing American businesses X amount of billions of dollars in lost productivity. Well, Facebook is apparently like March Madness every single weekday of the year.
The other theme that grew out of the Facebook outages was the tremendous boon it was for Twitter. This is a portion of a report Thursday from NPR’s Laura Sydell:
“Facebook isn’t working” was one of the top trending topics on Twitter. There were thousands of ironically tinged tweets such as, “Facebook isn’t working, oh no, we will all have to get back to real life.” Or…”Facebook isn’t working, OMG, children are playing outside! Mommies are reading books.” And no one missed the irony that Facebook itself released a statement about the problem on Twitter.
One tweet said, “Breaking news…500 million people set to join Twitter just to find out why Facebook isn’t working.”
So let’s recap. Millions of hours of American productivity were gained when Facebook went dark. Millions of hours of American productivity were lost again when it returned. Frustrated Facebook users readily admitted they were having to reluctantly return to life. Children and their mothers sadly left their homes and computers to go outside and breath fresh air and do stuff, like…play.
I’m thinking, much as I love this stupid free service, that once a month, maybe it would be a good idea if Facebook purposely unplugged its servers and gave us all the occasional “Facebook-free Day.” Families would get reacquainted, people would read books, the American economy would get a shot in the arm and we’d have to do old-fashioned stuff like call our friends on the phone.
Nah. Too much effort.