Those Snowed in Faced Social Media Blackout

By Brenda Flanagan

Let’s Skype about this. What started as a blizzard whiteout morphed into a social media blackout at shortly past midnight. That’s when both Facebook and Instagram both crashed — and stayed down for almost an hour. And it had nothing to do with adorable kittens!

While the wind howled outside, social media users screamed inside. “Basically this is the Apocalypse. Thank God I have canned peaches and a slingshot in the house,” Felicia Day tweeted because Twitter was the only major platform still functioning. On the site DownDetector, instead of weather radar, an outage map displayed hotspots where Facebook — and its photo-sharing app, Instagram — had both tanked.

At first, some users blamed the blizzard, figuring Facebook simply collapsed under the weight of too many “look at the snow”
photos. Reports to DownDetector showed 43 percent had problems logging in, 41 percent experienced total blackout and 14 percent couldn’t post their pics.

Traffic switched to Twitter — which slowed but slogged through the crisis — prompting a storm of comments at hashtag Facebookdown. Tweets like: “Two out of the three pillars of the social media edifice have crashed. The world is surviving on Twitter”

Earlier in the evening, Gov. Chris Christie had tweeted, “Charge your phone and have battery powered radio on hand,” but social media’s become far more crucial when government needs to reach out in an emergency.

“Where does Gov. Christie tell people to go to, when after telling them check on Facebook, check on Twitter. And if that goes down, where do they go to determine what to do, to find out what’s going on,” said NJTV News Marketing and Strategy Director Antonio Ortiz.

Facebook acknowledged — “Sorry, something went wrong.” After some hackers claimed responsibility, Facebook issued this statement: “Earlier today many people had trouble accessing Facebook and Instagram. This was not the result of a third-party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems. We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100 percent for everyone.”

Why Facebook chose the height of a blizzard to tweak its systems. Ortiz said, “Facebook has over 1.3 billion monthly users worldwide. It has over 150 million daily users, actively in North America alone. So finding a quiet time to do an update is not necessarily possible.”

They say, “timing is everything.” Facebook and Instagram undeniably now rank near the top of ways people communicate with the authorities — and with each other. Or, as Simon te Brink so eloquently tweeted: “Facebook is down. I’m currently standing outside on the sidewalk offering pics of my breakfast and cat to anyone walking past.”