The click of a button
Manila—When I woke up in the morning last month as millions of people around the world were unable to access Facebook, I immediately checked the news to see what was going on. The social media platform was down.
I learned that the outage started just before midnight in the Philippines. I didn’t discover it until the morning. I was already asleep as I’m always tired after the nightly live broadcast of a TV show I’m co-producing. But immediately, my workmates and friends formed new chat groups in other apps such as Viber, as we had to continue communicating. There was some worry in the exchange of messages about how long it might take.
But I went offline after that. Then I noticed the silence.
The faint notification pings of messenger mixing with the twitter of birds usually wafted through the early mornings in my neighborhood. I always hope there are still people who take a pause from digital routine to appreciate the birds in the morning.
I was delighted with the quiet surroundings. I realized that life was indeed much simpler without social media. That moment brought back the 80s, and especially the 90s – the decade preceding this chaos we’re in right now.
The forced unplugging may have been agony for many people. We had enough traumas in 2020 but this one looked like the upset for 2021. But not for me. I wondered what the world would be like if Facebook and its squad of apps and platforms never came back online. I spent time picturing a scenario in which social media disappeared for good. It was easy, because as I’ve said, it was the 90s all over again.
I participate in Facebook and I appreciate the help it provides in having better access to information and better connection to the world. For many, it gave a better social life.
Apart from my use of chat apps, Facebook is already too much for me to post in two other platforms. I have an Instagram account but I stopped posting in August 2020. The last entry on my Twitter account was a New Year video I tweeted in 2018.
I think it’s because I was terrified when I got followed. For someone who feels revolted by social contact, I don’t want to be followed. It makes me a unicorn in a world where people are comfortably clicking the buttons to share their selfies, their relationship and work milestones, their day on the beach, and are happy when someone clicks the like button.
In my most recent scan of FB posts, I posted two selfies to see what happens – one with a plastered eye after surgery, and another I took while waiting for a delayed flight in Zurich. They had the most likes. It’s amazing how people like selfies.
And that’s what’s funny in our current social bubble. I can become friends with someone I don’t even know with one click of a button. The good thing is, with one click, I can also make one disappear.
It doesn’t look like the real world, but it also looks like there’s no turning back. We can only have choices. Everyone can stare at their phones and flick through, but I often choose to go out, walk and stare at the sky from time to time to breathe.
Diana G. Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila.