When Facebook went down on Oct 4, it sent shockwaves round the world. That day businesses lost money, people lost social engagements -- and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly lost $6 billion that day.
And while many breathed a collective sigh of relief when it resumed operations, the outage was an opportunity to examine our fixation and, in some cases, addiction, to the social network.
Then there is whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook. She testified before a Senate hearing Oct. 5 and hammered home the company’s focus on massive profits and growth over platform safeguards.
As an insider, with a key understanding of the social network’s algorithms, Haugen insisted Facebook hurts kids, allows dangerous Covid misinformation to spread and undermines democracy. This wasn’t supposition. Haugen, who had previously worked at Google and Yelp, copied thousands of pages of confidential company documents and shared them with lawmakers, regulators and The Wall Street Journal.
Plus, it wasn't the first charge of lax data maintenance against the company. Facebook was slammed over the Cambridge Analytics debacle and its role in Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
For some, the answer is macro: Government regulation may ultimately curb Facebook’s power.
For All Home Connections, affiliated with AT&T, it’s a micro-challenge: Detox from social media for 25 days and win $2,500. (Or $100/day to stay off social media.) Of course, the competition has rules.
First, it requires participants to spend five days tracking their mood on social media. Then, for 25 days, delete all social media apps from your screens, track your moods and set and pursue goals. At the end of the period, write up or video your responses.
While there is only one winner, the idea is interesting.
Psychologists estimate as many as 5% to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social-media addiction, categorized as a behavioral addiction, according to the Addiction Center.
Driven by an uncontrollable urge to use social media, they devote so much time and effort to it, other areas of their lives are adversely impacted. An estimated 27% of children who spend three+ hours a day on social media exhibit symptoms of poor mental health.
There is even a name for it: Internet addiction disorder (IAD), recognized by the American Psychological Association. True, IAD envelopes a host of behaviors — from isolated social networking to video games, online gambling to porn — but you get the drift.
Facebook’s six-hour outage had real-world consequences — positive and negative. But it did give users a chance to experience time without it. Even if the detox challenge sounds too severe, rethinking our relationship with social media, while Washington mulls its next move, has merit.