What If … Social Media Went Away?

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Two weeks ago, we all got a little taste of what it might be like in a world without social media.

During the unscheduled Oct. 4 Facebook and Instagram outage (which lasted about five hours), nobody was able to update their status, like their friends’ photos or even comment about how annoying the outage was.

But it didn’t last for very long. After a few hours of people flocking to other social media outlets, such as Twitter and TikTok, they were able to resume scrolling through their feeds, shopping on Facebook Marketplace and posting about conspiracy theories surrounding the outage. (Some of those theories revolved around  the previous day’s revelation that Instagram does negatively affect the mental health of teenage girls and that Facebook, its parent company, knew about this and did nothing.)

However, I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if Facebook hadn’t been able to get their systems back online. In fact, what might happen if all social media went down and never came back?

I present to you, a speculative journal of a world with no social media. Keep in mind as you read, that this isn’t necessarily how things would go down. However, it’s certainly worth entertaining the possibility.

Day 1 of Social Media Outage:

Dear diary,

Today, all social media apps just … crashed. Not really sure what’s going on, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, even Pinterest are all down. I mean it’s fine. I guess I’ll kill some time playing games on my phone. Maybe text some people to hang out.

A few moments later…

OK! Now I’m really annoyed! I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to play any games since I used Facebook to login to half of them! And I don’t have everyone’s numbers saved to my phone since I normally use Messenger to text big groups. Now what am I going to do?

Day 2 of Social Media Outage:

Dear diary,

I didn’t realize how much I use social media. I had to actually look up some articles today to see if there was any news about what’s happening with the outage. Normally when something big goes down, I just scroll through my social news feed and other people have already reposted 20 things about it. Feels weird having to seek out news sources myself.

Day 7 of Social Media Outage:

Dear diary,

It really seems to be getting crazy with this social media outage. I heard on the news that small businesses and political campaigns are really suffering from this. I never thought about how much I use things like Facebook to find new local stores or even to learn about candidates running for office.

I guess it makes sense. But it also makes me wonder how much I’ve been manipulated by the algorithms used to determine what types of posts and ads we see.

Day 12 of Social Media Outage:

Dear diary,

Some people are not handling this outage well. I saw people with signs on the street corner today. At first, I thought it was some sort of rally. Turns out, people were putting their pictures and status updates on the signs. Talk about lonely.

Day 26 of Social Media Outage:

Dear diary,

Maybe this whole social outage isn’t such a bad thing. Several of my friends whose numbers I didn’t have wound up getting my number from other mutual friends. So, we’ve actually been able to keep in contact.

I’ve also noticed a change in my attitude. I’m less irritated and cynical. Is it possible that Internet trolls were contributing to my constant pessimism?

I also feel like I’m connecting better with friends now than when I was constantly seeing updates from them online. So, is it also possible that because I don’t have to filter through dozens of other people’s comments, I’m able to have better conversations with my friends?

Day 41 of Social Media Outage:

Dear diary,

It’s been more than a month since social media went down. And based on what I’m seeing on the news, it’s never coming back. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Apparently, depression and anxiety rates have gone down worldwide. Something about the lack of cyberbullies and how filters on Instagram negatively impacted self-esteem. People don’t seem so angry anymore either. I can’t even remember the last time I heard someone go off on a random tangent ranting about the movie industry when the subject was about puppies. And now, when I ask for restaurant recommendations, I get genuine responses instead of some automated ads and then a subsequent lecture from my third cousin about government corruption.

I’ve also noticed that I’m sleeping better since I actually go to bed when I lay down instead of watching three hours of TikTok videos. And without the constant distractions, I’ve been able to focus better. And not just me, but my friends, too. Whenever we hang out, instead of being glued to our phones, we actually spend quality time together.

It’s just nice.

I really hope social media doesn’t come back. But if it does, I really hope my friends don’t join back up again. Because if they do, I might find myself jumping right back on that bandwagon. And that’s just not something I’m interested in anymore.

Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

10 Responses

  1. What about disconnected people who genuinely do not have any people they’re able to see on a regular basis?

  2. -I’m torn because while there are a lot of people on Facebook I only know how to contact through there, I think its structure too often rewards disinformation and has accentuated numerous political and societal crises including the ongoing pandemic. I like Twitter’s user base better for the most part, but its “most anyone can reply to most anything” format rewards hysteria with exposure. For my part I think our society should return to centralized, one-topic forums instead of persistent “timelines,” and I think Discord chats and messaging have done a lot to help with that. (I also think Facebook should have stayed 18+, as it used to be, and that all social-media sites should have kept that as a strict requirement for enrollment.)

      1. -Thank you. And I’m grateful to SoThere as well since they also made a good point. Discord’s had some issues (dangerous spammers masquerading as having free Nitro offers), but being able to choose topics, friends, and blocked users (and to see blocked users’ messages with a click if the messages are genuinely important) so readily, as well as to warn users of adult content where applicable, has been very useful.

  3. -My life is social media-free. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter. I don’t feel like I miss much being “out of the loop.” The few friends I have, I either e-mail (long letters to friends in different states), text (rarely), or see in person if they are local. Not being “in the loop” makes me notice everyone who is — the people who go to lunch with me and constantly check their phone for updates, responding to every ping, ding, and blip. Most of them can’t have their phone more than a foot away without reaching for it. I had Facebook for a while, but decided my life is way better and I like people a lot more when I don’t know everything about everyone all the time.

    1. -Have to say even though I have Facebook and don’t mind it as much I totally agree understand where you’re coming from…sometimes I will take breaks if need to for my sanity sake- Lets just say can see why many aren’t on it anymore…Although it can have good points- helping keep in touch with old friends/ sharing community stuff/ even finding things to buy- it can also be I feel negative too- people saying stuff they normally wouldn’t say to peoples face/ the feeling if inadequacy if not as “popular”/ the way it can consume one…But honestly I’d rather have fb rather then the really annoying tik tok. And although Instagram I used to have and could be worse maybe, I totally agree that especially among young females it can make one feel very self conscious, inadequate and depressed. I went off Inst cause every time I would see all these “perfect picture” “model” type photos that would get tons of likes compared to mine and thus would make me feel even worse about myself…Personally I think the world would be a lot better without social media, but since that probably won’t happen…till then think I’ll just do maybe fb and Pinterest.

  4. -Social media, specifically Facebook, have allowed me to reconnect with a lots of people I’d lost contact with. People also use it to make plans for in-person events, at a time when people consider an actual, real-time PHONE CALL to be too “intimate.” For shut-ins, social media may be their only real social interaction. But there are HUGE downsides. People say things on social media that they would never think of saying to a person’s face, especially when hiding behind the anonymity of a screen name. Social media helps perpetuate misinformation as well. If we tried to conquer smallpox and polio in the age of social media, we never would have succeeded. I often think social media is robbing us of our basic humanity. The day is coming when people will go to church via a VR helmet.

    1. -MeWe (https://mewe.com/) is a fairly good social media, though (obviously) you still need to customize your notification settings, etc., so as not to get swamped.

      But yeah, most mainstream social media aren’t great.

  5. -Have to say I sympathize a lot with what this article/blog has to say. Even though I have Facebook and don’t mind it as much- sometimes will take breaks if need to for my sanity sake- I totally understand why many aren’t on it anymore…Although it can have good points- helping keep in touch with old friends/ sharing community stuff/ even finding things to buy- it can also be I feel negative too- people saying stuff they normally wouldn’t say to peoples face/ the feeling if inadequacy if not as “popular”/ the way it can consume one…But honestly I’d rather have fb rather then the really annoying tik tok. And although Instagram I used to have and could be worse maybe, I totally agree that especially among young females it can make one feel very self conscious, inadequate and depressed. I went off Inst cause every time I would see all these “perfect picture” “model” type photos that would get tons of likes compared to mine and thus would make me feel even worse about myself…Personally I think the world would be a lot better without social media, but since that probably won’t happen…till then think I’ll just do maybe fb and Pinterest.

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