What Your Reaction To The Digital Apocalypse Says About You

So, how did you survive the social media blackout?

Social media apps in a black corona

by Radhika Sanghani |
Updated on

I was on a train from Cornwall back to London when it happened. It was 5.30pm, the sky was grey, and the smattering of rain reflected my mildly sad mood. Nobody was replying to me on WhatsApp – not even my neighbour, and I’d sent her a four-minute voice note trying to help her with boy drama – and hardly anyone was engaging with my Insta stories even though I’d tried to be funnier than usual. I was so despondent I decided to refresh my emails.

That was when everything made sense. There, at the top of my inbox was a newsletter from my astrologer Francesca Oddie. The first line? ‘Trickster Mercury Retrograde has taken down Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.’

A quick Google proved she was right. All three major social media platforms were down. Like the entire world, I went straight onto Twitter to check that this was the case. And like the entire world, I felt seen by memes reassuring me that everyone felt as lost as I did.

It’s obviously laughable how much a social media outage has affected us (my favourite meme is: ‘I survived the Instagram/WhatsApp blackout of 2021’) but it did make me really think about my relationship with my phone. When I realised no one was replying to me because they actually couldn’t, I felt real relief. So often when I post on my socials, or even reach out to certain people on WhatsApp, I feel exposed and vulnerable – until the validating likes and messages start coming in. Sometimes it even makes me feel anxious.

But without the potential for any responses, I felt lighter. Freer. In a way I haven’t since 2007 before I had a smartphone. I had zero expectations from my phone, and so there was no need to look at it. The problem was that it felt so weird to not refresh Instagram that I found myself doing it even though it was dead. I told myself it was because I wanted to check if it had come back to life yet, but I think the truth is, it’s just a habit I can’t let go of.

I felt how I imagine people used to feel in the 90s: relaxed, content and mildly bored.

So, I kept pressing refresh and I kept seeing the same post I’d already liked pre-blackout – an inspirational quote from Jay Shetty that was meant to make me feel better about being single, but actually just made me miss my ex. Part of me started to wonder if the universe had made the blackout happen just so I could keep seeing this quote and finally get the message.

As the six-hour outage went on, and I made my way back home, things started to feel better. I got used to being Insta- and WhatsApp-free, to the point where I stopped checking to see if my socials were back. I left my phone in another room while I watched TV – something I don’t think I’ve done for at least a year – and let myself get fully absorbed in The White Lotus finale (except for the very end, when I iMessaged a friend my thoughts). I felt how I imagine people used to feel in the 90s: relaxed, content and mildly bored.

A few hours in, I started to forget Instagram even existed. It made me realise I’d probably be much happier if I deleted these apps from my phone. I wouldn’t compare myself to others so much, I’d be more present in the moment, and I’d have so much more time – time I normally waste scrolling through Insta.

At 10pm, I got into bed and fell asleep to a podcast without even thinking about social media. I was peaceful and happy. And I still was when I woke up a solid 10 hours later. Until I suddenly remembered that my social media was probably back and I had contact to catch up on. The second I grabbed my phone, I felt the familiar excitement at seeing dozens of green notifications on Whatsapp, and red arrows on Instagram. I was BACK.

It is not the happy ending I wanted – and my mental health is probably craving – but it’s real. I am a relaxed, freer person without social media, yes. And yet it is so integrated into my life that giving up is quite simply not an option. So please do feel free to like this when I share it on my Insta.

What your reaction to the outage says about you:

‘Wait, they were all down? I didn’t notice.’

Congratulations, you’re a healthy, happy human being. You didn’t need this quiz to tell you this – you’re probably too busy doing yoga to even read all the way down – but you’re so well-adjusted that you barely check Insta. Your phone is something you use out of necessity rather than addiction. We all want to be you.

**‘WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!' **_Spends all night on Twitter_

Are you an influencer? Or are you just obsessed with following influencers? Either way, you spend too much time on social media. Consider taking up a hobby that forces you to spend time with actual human beings in person.

‘Is it wrong that I’m kind of enjoying this?’

You use social media religiously, but you probably don’t actually enjoy it. You’re just stuck in a habit of refreshing your phone. The outage has shown you another way – a happier way. You could use this as an opportunity to delete your apps. But you’ll probably just keep going, only now you’ll feel guilty every time you refresh Insta.

READ MORE: So, How Much Money Did Facebook Lose After Yesterday's Outage?

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