The massive internet outage shows that we’re far too screen-obsessed

I’m certainly going to make more of a concerted effort to spend time away from screens – and this outage has given me a final shove

Chris Stevenson
Tuesday 08 June 2021 13:57
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<p>‘Our lives are so intertwined with the screens in front of us, that a disruption feels almost personal’</p>

‘Our lives are so intertwined with the screens in front of us, that a disruption feels almost personal’

The 503 errors kept coming - Amazon, Reddit, The New York Times, the UK government’s website andThe Independent.

As the time ticked on, I experienced the same feeling I get everytime there is an outage on sites I use regularly – a sense of paralysis that hits far harder than it should do. “What now?”

It’s a stupid question really, there is of course plenty to do away from the screen, but it never feels like it in the moment. Our lives are so intertwined with the screens in front of us, that a disruption feels almost personal.

The cause of the Fastly outrage might be made public for a little while, but there are broader issues about how much we rely on having the internet available on a minute-by-minute basis – and how fragile the infrastructure behind it can seem.

There are plenty that will read this and think, what an overreaction to what was essentially about an hour without parts of the internet. And to that I say, fair enough, it might be – but it does worry me how attached I am to my phone and laptop screen - with the ability to access whatever information or services I want, whenever. How attached we all are.

There was a power cut in my area last week, one that affected a few streets – and while thoughts should probably turn to food in the fridge (which I know can last a few hours) or something like that, the first thought is always: “How much battery is left for my laptop and phone?”

Every time an outage like this occurs – and this was obviously a pretty major one – it makes me realise that our whole lives are on our screens, and maybe it’s best to put them down occasionally. My heart sinks when I see my weekly report of how much time I’ve spent looking at my iPhone screen, let alone my computer. Maybe this is the nudge I need to get myself to step away more often?

This is not to get too dystopian – and again, I’m aware that I was without access for a relatively short space of time – but I think this is something worth putting some thought into. I’m certainly going to make more of a concerted effort to spend time away from screens – and this outage has given me a final shove.

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