Could you imagine life without social media?
For six hours on Monday, October 4, 2021, many people’s lives changed dramatically. Everything from how they worked and socialised to how they found out about the latest news and entertained themselves was altered. That was all a result of a Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp outage. Facebook, which owns all three platforms, hadn’t experienced an outage of this magnitude since 2008.
In a post on the company’s blog, Facebook’s VP of Infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, explained that the cause of the outage was “configuration changes on the backbone routers.” And regardless of what that euphemistic explanation actually means in tech terms, for millions of people around the world, it meant six hours of experiencing life in a different way – namely, without some of the most popular social media platforms. (Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat remained up and running during this time.)
Sure, it was only six hours, but in that time, people got a small taste of what life would be like without access to social media. Turns out, it’s a mixed bag. “Social media, like so many things, has its advantages and disadvantages,” associate professor of clinical professor, Dr Kate Jansen, tells Reader’s Digest. “Broadly speaking, frequent social media use has been associated with decreased self-esteem and increased rates of depression. The constant comparison to the idealised versions of others’ lives can cause decreased satisfaction with the reality of our life.”
But, Jansen says, it’s not all negative. “Social media also has considerable benefits, like improved social support and community building that may not otherwise be possible for individuals,” she explains. Here’s a look at 15 things that could happen if social media disappeared – the good, the bad, and the increased privacy.
It would be much harder to find our people
Social media allows people to connect with peers and members of different social groups that they otherwise may not have had the chance to meet in real life – whether it’s others with the same rare illness, a niche fandom, or individuals who support the same social justice cause or movement.
“This connection often has benefits to the individual, particularly when they are able to connect with and gain support from a social group that would not otherwise be available to them,” Jansen explains. “For example, individuals with mental health concerns can reach out to others with the same condition for support, or young adults may find connection with others who have the same gender identity or sexual orientation who might not otherwise be in their immediate community.”
We wouldn’t compare ourselves to others as much
One of the side effects of seeing what everyone we know is up to at all times, at every stage of their existence, is that it’s difficult not to hold their perceived successes up against our own and find that we’re falling short. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t great for our mental wellbeing, and an increase in self-esteem is one of the things that can happen when you quit social media.
“Social media use in general has been associated with body dissatisfaction, in part because users consistently compare themselves to the perfectly positioned and sometimes edited images they see on others’ accounts,” Jansen says. “Overt or covert pro – eating disorder groups, sometimes under tags like #thinspo or #fitspo, can reinforce disordered eating habits or provide harmful advice and information.”