On 2 August, Facebook went down for what was reported to be about 19 minutes. And while no one in New Zealand seemed to pay much attention to this catastrophe of social media breakdown, the rest of the world responded with a combination of fear, confusion and downright madness.
In an effort to lessen the frantic mood, a Facebook spokesperson released the following statement: "We're aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing Facebook. We're working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible."
Apart from the fact that this ridiculous statement explains nothing at all, it also equates the very existence of Facebook to a state of normality—which is something of an indictment on society in general.
1. People turned to Twitter
At a time when ebola is prancing through Africa, when Gaza is experiencing explosive Israeli rain and when Russia incorporates Crimean football teams into its league, 15,800 posts bearing the hashtag Facebookdown appeared on Twitter—a fact that illustrated our penchant for frivolity while simultaneously showing that there's little loyalty among online denizens.
2. Dark social traffic dropped
A Chartbeat blog, published in the aftermath of the event, looked at what overall effect the Facebook blackout had on internet dark social traffic—a phrase that refers to "the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by web analytics programs. This mostly occurs when a link is sent via online chat or email, rather than shared over a social media platform, from which referrals can be measured."
Rather unsurprisingly dark social traffic dropped in correspondence to the time Facebook wonked out. But while Facebook referrals dropped by about 70 percent, dark social traffic dipped by only 11 percent at its worst. According to Chartbeat, this "provides strong evidence" that 84 percent of dark social traffic to websites (to news publications in particular) comes from sources other than Facebook.
3. Zuckerberg lost cash
The Wire speculated that during the 19-minute blackout, Facebook lost roughly US$426,607 (calculated at a rate of $22,453 per minute). Given that a report recently revealed that the social media site paid only $23,000 in tax to New Zealand over the course of the last financial year, StopPress speculates that a vigilante Kiwi hacker might have orchestrated the blackout as a form of revenge for the tax avoidance.
4. Americans called 911
In response to their inability to like pictures of friends' babies, stalk ex-girlfriends and share pictures of meals that look unappetising, various members of the American public called 911 to report the Facebook blackout. So frustrating was this for law enforcement, that a certain Sergeant Brink took to Twitter in the hope of discouraging panicked members of the public from calling the triple-digit number.
#Facebook is not a Law Enforcement issue, please don't call us about it being down, we don't know when FB will be back up!— Sgt. Brink (@LASDBrink) August 1, 2014
5. God urged people to stay calm
In a benevolent effort to put all the world's troubled minds at ease, the mysterious being that goes by the Twitter name God encouraged the people of earth to stay calm during the ordeal.
Attention world: #facebookdown. Please remain calm and do not attempt to interact with human beings.— God (@TheTweetOfGod) August 1, 2014
6. Mainstream media covered it
Given that traffic to online news sites dipped by three percent during the debacle, news agencies obviously felt they owed something to Facebook. So, rather than considering the event as nothing more than a web glitch, news agencies elevated it to newsworthiness and covered it as though it was the seventh sign of the apocalypse.