Life on Tapp: There’s more to life than staring at phones

Last week there was genuine panic among users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp when the sister platforms simultaneously crashed for six hours after routine IT maintenance went wrong.

Saturday, 16th October 2021, 9:00 pm
PHONE ADDICTION: Social media outage caused panic. Photo: Getty Images
PHONE ADDICTION: Social media outage caused panic. Photo: Getty Images

This was big news. So big that it led the news bulletins that night with reporters assigned with the task of finding people who had been affected by the problem. Not that they had to look very far - the latest statistics show that more than 48 million people in the UK have a Facebook account and literally everybody with a pulse uses WhatsApp these days.

Some of the bewildered-looking types who were interviewed talked about the inconvenience of not being able to connect with the outside world for a quarter of a day. One indignant woman complained bitterly about how she had to resort to text messaging for the evening. It wasn’t that long ago that the text was regarded as a new kind of witchcraft, now it is bracketed alongside the humble letter.

Can we really not do without Facebook and finding out why a fella you briefly worked with 15 years ago has the hump, or Instagram and its endless sea of heavily filtered pictures posted by people who obviously don’t enjoy their lives as much as they crack on?

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In a world where millions of us have unlimited phone calls and text messages as part of our mobile phone contracts,

I have never fully understood why WhatsApp is so essential to so many unless receiving scores of unsolicited ‘jokes’ and memes is considered essential these days.

The outage was such big news because it impacted so many people and businesses - entire industries rely heavily on social media to function, including this newspaper - but does the man or woman in the street genuinely need social media as much as we think we do?

While connecting digitally got many of us through months of multiple lockdowns, spending most of 2020 staring at a screen left me feeling more than a little jaded and I know lots of others have experienced the same feeling of e-fatigue.

One of the reasons why the majority were thrilled when the nation unlocked in July was that it meant we could leave off the group chats that had worn a bit thin, stop playing quizzes online and go down to the pub to show off our otherwise useless knowledge.

My own social media habits have calmed down dramatically over the past couple of years and I’ve finally realised that it is pointless entering into a debate on social media because you can’t ever win an argument with an idiot, especially when they are online. Somebody once said that opinions are like backsides - everybody’s got one - and the problem with social media is that everybody wants to share their opinion with you, whether they are particularly insightful or not.

It’s worth remembering that while three of the biggest platforms were plunged into chaos, it meant that there was a six-hour window where people couldn’t post unkind or offensive material.

The outage that caused panic among those who need to get a life was a reminder to many that we can survive without looking at our phones.