Facebook outage joy

Facebook had an unprecedented multiple hour outage on Monday which impacted the entire Facebook ecosystem, including Instagram and WhatsApp. Like many people, I refreshed the Facebook page dozens of times during that period to see if Facebook had come back up. Each time that I refreshed the page and it didn’t resolve, I felt this immense sense of relief and a little hope grew that Facebook might be dead for good.

I find this juxtaposition really interesting. On the one hand, I know that Facebook is bad for my own mental health and for society at large but on the other, I just can’t seem to leave it. It is the most tangible and dangerous addiction in my life (and to be honest, that’s saying something).

When there was a possibility that Facebook was down for good though, meaning that I would not be alone in my sudden search for different ways to connect to community, I was elated. Leaving Facebook as an individual sucks as an experience. Everyone that you’ve grown used to talking to continue living their lives without really noticing that you’ve gone while you’re left scrambling to replace all of the functions that Facebook filled in your life. When everyone is forcibly evicted from the platform, however, people are forced to reach out to each other and build stronger, more redundant community networks. You’re not stuck on the outside by yourself.

Considering the extremely palpable relief that I felt while Facebook was down, I decided to journal for a bit today and discover why I felt compelled to open Facebook even though the experience is so awful for my own mental health. I’ve been writing down the general reason for wanting to open Facebook each time I feel the compulsion and then have forced myself to make a conscious decision on whether or not I wanted to continue.

Over the last ~4 hours, I have felt the compulsion to open Facebook 9 times. Here’s how the tallies add up:

  • Feeling stuck/overwhelmed/unable to focus at work: 3
  • To see if anyone responded to my post: 1
  • To view a post sent directly to me: 2
  • Feeling overwhelmed by divorce feelings: 1
  • Finished a task without a clear immediate next step: 1
  • Wanting to share a feeling of interest to others: 1

Already, I can see a pattern forming. Facebook seems to inhabit some “default action” step in my mind as a coping mechanism for when I don’t know what to do. It gives my brain the feeling of being productive because I’m processing information while rapidly context switching but it leaves me exhausted and no closer to figuring out what I’m doing next. Now that I know that, I can attempt to replace Facebook with a healthier coping mechanism such as taking time to clear out my tabs, scheduling work tasks on my calendar, reviewing project notes, clearing my desk, or taking a walk.

This has only been a very brief experiment but I’m looking forward to keeping more notes on when I feel compelled to open Facebook so that I can better understand my feelings and have a healthier response.

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