When Facebook broke, users railed or mocked, but most kept refreshing their news feeds

As we mocked Facebook's meaninglessness, we knew deep down that we were mocking ourselves, says Rhodri Marsden

Share

I sensed that something was wrong. I felt it "in my water", as my mum tends to say when retrospectively claiming psychic powers that she doesn't possess. But this definitely wasn't right. My Facebook news feed had had the same post at the top for nearly 15 minutes, something unheard of in the modern era: it consisted of my friend Dan bemoaning how he felt "disassociated and paranoid, paralysed by memories of failure". I needed cheering up a bit. I tentatively tried sending a sticker to my pal Charlotte featuring an anthropomorphised egg waving "Good Morning!". It remained undelivered. This was serious.

Shifting my gaze to Twitter, it became evident what the problem was. Facebook was broken. It wasn't just me; it wasn't working for anyone. This was a major international outage of the world's most popular social networking platform, with more than 1.25 billion monthly users, and as such this was evidently big news.

Liveblogs were set up by news organisations to document the ongoing problem. With no information as to when the site might be bump-started back to life, stocks in Facebook fell by 0.8 per cent. However, reassured that this wasn't our problem and that it was Facebook's, people began to mock the event as inconsequential. "I need to know if my aunt has reached Level 130 of Candy Crush Saga," I tweeted, aware that sarcasm is one of social media's favourite forms of wit.

I cast my mind back to the last major Facebook outage in 2010, when the site disappeared for more than two hours. That day, my friend Jo posted a tweet that went viral: "Facebook users are roaming the streets in tears, shoving photos of themselves in people's faces and screaming 'DO YOU LIKE THIS? DO YOU??'" It's a pretty good joke, and four years on people started posting it again, sneakily passing it off as their own work. Even KitKat got in on the Twitter gagwagon, using its "have a break" slogan to point out Facebook's unexpected downtime.

Read more: Users complain about social network outage
Twitter unblocks anti-Islamic tweets in Pakistan
Facebook launches Snapchat-competitor Slingshot

But as we mocked Facebook's meaninglessness, we knew deep down that we were mocking ourselves. Many of us have developed habit-forming social media routines, and, while we may not be proud of them, they frequently deliver plenty of diverting, amusing or enlightening material. So, as we laughed knowingly at the jokes, we simultaneously refreshed Facebook to see when it might be back.

Even those who spurn Facebook would reluctantly have to acknowledge that it occupies a pivotal position on the web. Many people's consumption of news is dictated by the stories that their friends share on Facebook; with that service unavailable, traffic to some news websites slumped. Technology website Techcrunch, while jokily pondering when we could "get back to 'liking' baby photos", omitted to mention that its comments section is powered entirely by Facebook and wasn't working. Virgin Media posted a tweet acknowledging the problem as it started to receive support requests from people who use Facebook as a portal. For those people, Facebook equals the internet. The web-savvy may mock, but that's not necessarily an indicator of stupidity or short-sightedness; it's just how people have chosen to use the resource they've been given. Far from being irrelevant to human existence, Facebook has become an integral part of it for millions of people.

The site was offline for around 30 minutes. As usual when something goes pear-shaped at Facebook, a statement was released referring to the "issue" that had now been "resolved". No mention of what might have caused it – although a global system with its load spread across several servers in several continents only goes down as a result of something pretty serious. But soon, everything was back to normal. My news feed updated with a post from my friend Samantha. "I looked into the abyss," she wrote of the outage, "a dark and desolate existence." And I think she was only half-joking.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
One 200ml bottle of codeine linctus contains three times the equivalent level of morphine you'd get in casualty if you broke your wrist  

The ‘war on drugs’ consistently ignores its greatest enemy: over-the-counter painkillers

Janet Street-Porter
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable