Social media blackout: where is the world?

Sunday mail

Belén Fernandez

WHEN the big social media blackout of October 4, 2021 hit, I was in the picturesque village of Himarë in southern Albania, with my feet propped up on a balcony railing, halfway looking out at the Ionian Sea, waiting looking forward to the release of Al Jazeera. my last article on New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

As the blackout coincided with a local internet outage, I first devoted myself to cursing Albanian networks and maniacally refreshing all the open tabs on my laptop. When the internet returned but components of Mark Zuckerberg’s digital empire – Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – still weren’t loading, I took to Twitter to see what was wrong with the world. And a lot, it seemed, was wrong with the world. Swarms of people flooded Twitter with comments about how swarms of people were flooding Twitter.

Some tweets also clarified the absence of ETA for the restoration of other social media services. Feeling in a moment of an oxygen-free astronaut, I despaired of what to do not only with my inability to post Friedman’s article now posted on Facebook, but also how to respond to some very important WhatsApp correspondence. on hold with no credit on my Mexican Cell Phone. In a flashback to a previous technological era, I remembered something known as Skype, which I then used to send a text message to my all-important correspondent’s phone notifying them of my Gmail address. After a little more pathological refresh of the WhatsApp and Facebook tabs and looking at the same Twitter memes over and over again, I shut my laptop and phone, sat down, and plunged headlong into an existential crisis of ‘to be that person who cares about it all when she could just watch the sea. I went to bed, waking up at one in the morning to find that everything was back to normal and I could finally post my article on Facebook, where I also found a message from my WhatsApp correspondent hours before informing me that he could not access WhatsApp.

But while the effective substitution of social media for life has certainly become normalized – and even more so thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing – there is nothing really normal about it.

Myself, of course, speak from a position of immense privilege; after all, many people on this earth have neither the time nor the resources to be able to engage in activities as meaningless as eternally clicking between different social media platforms on a screen.

The privilege, however, is ultimately dubious – as swathes of humanity abandon reality for an artificial technological realm in which we often promote carefully cultivated images of ourselves in order to accumulate the most ‘likes’ and other digital manifestations of approval and admiration.

By marketing our own brand of “me”, we are essentially eliminating the “me” itself, which can gradually disintegrate and evaporate in the online world.

Meanwhile, the ubiquitous technological distraction is fueling some sort of collective case of Attention Deficit Disorder – not to mention the other negative mental health repercussions of being online – all of which are a boon to an abusive pharmaceutical industry and profit oriented.

And in countries like my homeland, the United States, mass distraction is helping to thwart the kind of collective focus needed to effect systemic change.

Of course, social media also provides a platform to criticize and agitate against an American corporate plutocracy that specializes in the military and economic destruction of other nations – a topic I’ve written at length over. years.

Unfortunately, posting a bikini photo on Facebook will earn me more likes every day, which, frankly, doesn’t stop me from doing it.

Call it a normalized dependency.

Without degenerating into a mundane nostalgia for the good old days, I will say that I regularly remember sitting in the grass in my parents’ backyard in Texas about 25 years ago – and doing nothing else. just that: sit in the grass at my parents’ backyard.

In other words, I fail to do something (or nothing) in the very moment without feeling the need to digitally convey a picture of myself or my surroundings to an online audience – thus annihilating that very moment via logistics. transmission. But back to the present.

On October 5, after the doomsday six-hour social media blackout ended, Bloomberg reported that Mark Zuckerberg had suffered “a terrible week” (even though it was “only Tuesday”).

And yet the real victim, whether social media is on or off, is a human society that is hollowed out by screen time and where solidarity takes the form of, say, commiseration on Twitter about Facebook. and WhatsApp down.

It may be life as we know it, but we no longer know life at all. – Al Jazeera.

About Linda Jennings

Linda Jennings

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