Sarah Stultz: I survived the Facebook outage — now what?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

It seems like it took less than an hour after Facebook came back online Monday for the memes to start rolling.

“I survived the 2021 Facebook outage,” one read.

Another showed a tombstone with the icons for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in front of a fresh burial plot. Standing next to the plot was someone with a Twitter icon over their face throwing the peace sign into the air.

I was working on the Tribune’s weekly “5 Things to Do This Week” article when I kept getting an error message on my work computer as I tried to scour some of the local events pages on Facebook to look for events happening this weekend.

That computer is getting old, so at first I thought it was a glitch with the computer itself. But after trying my laptop and then my phone and still getting the same error message, I knew there had to be a little more to the story.

I did a quick Google search and at that time found only one news story talking about the outage — as the minutes passed, the internet was flooded with stories of the social media giant being down.

I use Facebook for quite a bit. Yes, I use it to communicate with friends and family near and far, but I also use it multiple times a day for work.

I use it to learn about events happening — as many places no longer use traditional advertising channels to let the community know about their events.

I use it to be alerted to news stories published with other news organizations throughout the state and the nation, and I use it to highlight some of the news the Tribune staff has written in an effort to reach a larger audience.

I also follow several small businesses on Facebook that don’t have a regular website and only have Facebook as a means of showcasing their products or happenings.

As I sat at a halt not being able to check my usual places for events, I thought a little about how Facebook has transformed our world.

I became a member of Facebook in November 2005. I was in my senior year of college, and at that time it seemed like it was just the people in my age range who were using the platform. Fast forward almost 16 years, and the platform is used by young and old — from people in their teens to people well past retirement.

Over the years, Facebook has boosted businesses in some ways, but hindered them in others. I know it has greatly impacted the newspaper industry in our quest to share truth amidst the chaos of many voices.

I thought about all the photos that have been on my Facebook page over the years and how some of those photos aren’t in any other location. I need to start getting those off of there and saved in a backup location.

And then I thought about the time I spend on Facebook. While it’s helpful for many reasons, it can be a real time waster, too.

I survived the outage this week — maybe it’s time for another one. This time one that’s initiated on this end. I’ve done it before, and this week’s outage was a reminder of what I learned at that time.

What did you learn?

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.