Yesterday evening, the world went black. Well, Facebook did—as well as Instagram and WhatsApp. And as quickly as it takes to refresh your newsfeed, Zuckerberg’s fortune took a big hit. Poof… Just like that, his wealth declined by $5.9 billion. He now has a mere total value of $117 billion—dropping him down to only the world’s sixth-richest person (down from fourth). A moment of silence, please.
The smack to Facebook’s stocks came from two sides. First, an unusually long outage of its platforms, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, which I’m sure if you’re as addicted to social media as me you would’ve either experienced first hand or enjoyed the memes on Twitter which ensued following the outage.
The blackout lasted 5 hours: a mistake that likely cost the company tens of millions of dollars in revenue. A statement from the social media giant confirmed that the cause of the blackout was a configuration change to the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between the company’s data centres. Although outages have happened in Facebook’s past—notably one in 2019 which lasted for 14 hours and another in 2008 that lasted a complete day—the recent outage, which occurred 4 October 2021, affected Facebook’s internal systems too. This meant that it was impossible for employees to access emails, the internal messaging system—known as the Workplace—and, alarmingly, even impacted the access of some doors at the company’s headquarters.
Secondly, Facebook is also dealing with the repercussions of last week’s Congressional hearing, where a former product manager, Frances Haugen, is testifying about her decision to become a whistleblower and leak internal data to the Wall Street Journal. In an interview on 60 Minutes, she criticised Facebook for putting “profits over people” and failing to maintain safeguards against misinformation after the 2020 presidential election.
So, is this the killing blow for Facebook? Pfft. Do you really think a measly scandal and outage could take down this tech giant? As soon as the servers came back up, we all scrambled back to the eternal news feed scrolling. Like a moth to a flame. A habit I’m also guilty of. In fact, Facebook’s stocks have proven to be surprisingly durable over the past few years of scandals—including last year’s ad boycott and posts of the January 2021 riots suddenly vanishing from the site. Shares have remained at near-record highs, closing Monday 4 October at $365, a more than 150 per cent increase in five years.
For some the outage of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp was an inconvenience—the infuriation of the buffer wheel: the way it relentlessly spins right back at you, in an almost taunting manner. For others, it may have been a much-needed relief from the 24/7 bombardment of the social media news cycle.
However, across the globe, there’s no doubt the blackout of these services caused some disruption. In Mexico, politicians were cut off from their constituents. In Brazil, pharmacies stopped receiving prescription orders. And in Colombia, a nonprofit organisation that uses WhatsApp to connect victims of gender-based violence to lifesaving services found its work impaired.
Unfortunately, as the world becomes more interconnected—and consequently reliant on technology—social media will continue to become an influential machine that keeps the world turning. In my opinion, at least, there’s no going back—and no reason to go back, considering the benefits seamless communication, which is largely accessible to the masses, can bring. What we do need to evaluate, however, is how much trust we put in tech companies to keep society moving. It’s not an issue of if Facebook’s services go down again, it’s when. And when that time comes, it’s important we’re prepared. At least we’ll always have Twitter to vent our worries through though, right?
No offence to Mark Zuckerberg, but he is probably the last person I would go to if I wanted to find love. Last week, Facebook officially launched Facebook Dating in the U.S., a new product by the social media giant that would serve as a dating app and the first step the company has taken towards meddling in our love lives. The question is, do we really need Facebook to jump on the bandwagon of dating apps?
When it comes to authenticity, it is no secret that the company has a history of stealing ideas from others. Remember when Facebook tried to buy Snapchat, Snapchat refused and as a result both Facebook and Instagram (also owned by Facebook) introduced a story feature? Instagram stories are now significantly more popular than Snapchat ones, and Snapchat is losing users by the day—I don’t actually remember the last time I opened the app, yet Instagram makes over 35 percent of my weekly screen time (please don’t judge me). That said, it is no surprise that Facebook is now trying to capitalise on love and the digital hook-up culture, a market worth billions, with Tinder making $120 million in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2019 alone. But will Facebook be successful?
There are, of course, various concerns that this feature won’t really take off. Few people use Facebook the same way we did ten years ago, when the network was at its prime. Gone are the days of cringe status updates. Both Twitter and Instagram have replaced the space for us to constantly share updates of our daily lives through pictures or tweets (among gen Z and millenials at the very least. I don’t know about you, but my granddad shares his opinions on Facebook like there is no tomorrow). The social network has also been decreasing in overall popularity, as it is evident that less and less people use it, with many of us only keeping our profiles as a means of communication with family, people from high school or as a place to absorb our news intake.
In addition to this, there are already many successful and popular dating apps we already know and love, from Feeld and Hinge to Bumble and Tinder. It’s no secret, then, that Facebook is coming to this party a little late. It’s not a particularly ‘cool’ social media network, nor does it have a good reputation when it comes to data privacy. But Facebook isn’t trying to imitate the usual features of dating apps nor participate in the dating culture that these apps have created, or so it says.
Dating apps have changed dating as we know it, creating a culture of ghosting, leading on, and overall uncertainty within our relationships. The constant pursuit of something meaningful (or not) through swiping hundreds of people a day reminds us that there are more options out there, and that choosing to go on dates with strangers we virtually know nothing about is exhausting. Facebook Dating wants to change that. The company has access to information about its users’ location, jobs, education, hobbies, family members and even previous dating history, which would then make it easier to match them algorithmically according to all these factors. Essentially, making it easier to match with somebody you will have things in common with.
Users have the option to opt in or out of matching with their Facebook friend’s friends, and although it wouldn’t match them with their own Facebook friends, there is a feature titled ‘Secret Crush’. This feature allows users to select up to nine of their Facebook friends whom they have a crush on, and if it is reciprocated by them via their selection of secret crushes, Facebook notifies both parties. While it does sound sweet in its own odd and digital way, do we really want to share our crushes with Facebook? The same Facebook that sold our data to Cambridge Analytica?
While you and your secret Facebook crush might be a perfect match, data privacy and Facebook aren’t. Far from it, just last week over 419 million Facebook users’ phone numbers were leaked, as the server was not protected with a password, meaning anyone could access it. The company has been involved in so many scandals over data privacy over the past years, it would be almost gullible to trust the new dating service (after all, it does match you according to your data).
So while you might be able to find love, or whatever it is you are looking for, doing it on Facebook comes with a high cost. So be ready to hand over your personal data. Is your secret crush worth it?