Denver — The forced pause on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp served as a reminder of the addictive habits people have with the social media platforms.
On Monday, users logged onto Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp only to be confronted with a lapse in service following a global outage.
Facebook and its various platforms have nearly three billion users. The social media giant was founded in 2004 to help people stay connected. Over the years, it's evolved dramatically, keeping users glued to their phones with news articles, shopping ads and so much more.
Zafrane Kuvula, a freshman at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, woke up and immediately grabbed his phone to check for updates on Instagram. He recalled thinking something was wrong with his Wi-Fi or his phone when the application failed to update content. It wasn’t until he messaged a friend when he realized the entire platform was down.
Almost every morning, Kuvula starts his day by scrolling for 30 minutes through multiple social media apps.
“You don’t notice that time is just flying by when you just keep on scrolling and scrolling,” Kuvula said.
He ended up opting for Snapchat to satisfy his need for constant engagement after losing track of how many times he hit the refresh button on Instagram. Kuvula doesn't post much online, but he makes it a point to keep up with his friends through apps from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed.
Emely Pech, an MSU freshman student, checked her WhattsApp around 2:30 pm on Monday and it was still down. She uses the platform to stay connected with family and friends outside of the country.
“I am addicted, in a way. I feel like social media, in general, has taken over all of us,” Pech said.
An outage of this magnitude is rare, but it gave a glimpse into the evolution and reliance users have on social media.
Dr. Samuel Jay, an MSU Denver associate professor of communication studies, said Facebook was built to become addictive.
“Just consider what you are expecting of these for-profit entities and know that their goal is not to make your life easier. Their goal is to make money,” Jay said.
Internet addiction is recognized as a disorder by the American Physiological Association. It has been found to increase the possibility of developing anxiety and depression.
“There is a clear component of social acceptance that’s coming from that. There is the dopamine hit that you get in the same way that you see somebody that you love or like,” Jay said.
The number of likes, comments or types of responses to posts can have a mental and physical impact on users, Jay said. The more likes users get, the more satisfied they become with themselves.
“It’s very clear that those engineers built those tools to have this kind of visceral and emotional result,” Jay said.
Pech noticed she spent way more time on Snapchat during the outage and also realized her screen time was down more than two hours. She said the temporary social media detox allowed her to be more aware of her surroundings and engaged in conversations.