Guest Post: The Great Facebook Calamity of 2021

A guest post by Melissa Lee:

This month across the world but particularly here in New Zealand, a great calamity struck millions of netizens with the fall of Facebook’s platforms due to internal network issues. Gone was the Facebook App, gone was Messenger, MessengerLite Instagram and WhatsApp. Even Pokémon Go was affected by the sudden and dramatic disruption on the way so many of us now engage online.

It was a shock to the systems of many and shock is the right word, because, Facebook has now become one of the primary tools for communications and information dissemination within global culture. Facebook and its platforms have, whether they intended or not, become an archive of human history and endeavour as digital photo albums and Facebook posts replace hard bound leather bundles, diaries and scrapbooks of our parents’ generation or the oral histories of our ancestors

The effect of the Facebook outage is still unknown at the time I write this but it is amazing to think of how much of our lives could be lost if Facebook were to permanently disappear overnight. How many late night messages between friends and loved ones could vanish into the ether of the digital abyss? We simply have no clue as to the societal damage but I imagine it would be likened to a mesh of the Fires of the Alexandria Library mixed with the personal feeling of a cherished family home burning down. How many of you have backed up your Facebook data and how many of you will be doing so the moment the platform is restored?

Today’s event, I hope, is a wakeup call to those who have their lives tied to one digital platform, to those that may have forgotten the subtle art of writing a letter or reading a long-form article in one of the great literary journals from Time to North & South. It is a (hopefully) temporary chance to reconnect ourselves with the other options for content dissemination and for the direct inter-personnel connection with others. The latter of course, being a barely permitted thing in the Auckland and Waikato regions for the time being but for the rest of New Zealand, the question remains as to how many of you last saw your best friend from High School or your flatmate from your University days. I bet it was on Facebook and you gave it a like even though they may live only a few kilometres away.

The digital revolution has shaped our lives so much for the better. It has allowed us all to keep in touch in seconds not in the months of the mail steamers of previous generations. Rather than families holding live Wakes for those emigrating overseas in the knowledge it was a near universal truth their brothers, daughters or cousins would never be seen again. Today, we can pop them a quick note on Facebook.

Well, not today.

For now we may have to think of another way to make them know we are thinking about them dearly instead. Stay positive and, just maybe, use today to make plans for that Level 3 picnic tomorrow.

NB: Melissa wrote this on the day of the outage. I’ve only got around to publishing it today as have been snowed under.

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