Facebook outage opens conversation around mental health & social media

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Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 3:40 PM CDT
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(KSLA) - On Monday, Oct. 4, Facebook and its affiliated apps -- Instagram and WhatsApp -- experienced outages for about six hours. Now, the incident is opening up the conversation around people’s dependency on social media.

“People and businesses around the world rely on us every day to stay connected. We understand the impact that outages like these have on people’s lives, as well as our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services. We apologize to all those affected, and we’re working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient,” read a Facebook news release.

Licensed counselor Sandi Davis said she’s had patients hospitalized for deteriorating mental health due to social media.

“A lot of the time we spend is on social media,” Davis said. “When we have that shutdown, we see a lot of people panic.”

According to Adobe, “Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms for teens and young adults, especially in the U.S.”

“There needs to be rules and structure, I think, to protect our mental health,” Davis said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports emergency room visits for mental health issues increased by 31 percent from 2019 to 2020 for ages 12 through 17.

“There has to be some way to manage it, otherwise we’re faced with anxiety, depression,” Davis said.

While social media alone is not only to blame, Davis says it plays a role in deteriorating mental health.

“I had a young lady several days ago on suicide watch at a hospital because her parents took her phone away from her. She was not able to cope properly with the removal from the device,” she said.

Davis said social media can cause people to compare themselves to others.

“They’re finding their overall value in how many likes they have or how many followers,” she explained.

As the popularity has grown, more and more people are claiming the title of “social media influencer.”

“It’s a free resource to grow your business and grow online,” said Kalli Combs, founder & creative director of Social Pal Kal, Social Media Marketing & Management Agency.

As a social media professional, Combs said there are good things that come along with the apps.

“There are so many ways that you can finesse things to where it looks like it could be reality and it’s not, whether it’s how someone looks on social media or what they have,” she said.

Some influencers have quit their day jobs, and instead make money from ad revenue and affiliate links online. Facebook reports the number of content creators earning the equivalent of $10,000 a month grew 88 percent from 2019 to 2020.

That means more people are making six figures from their phones.

Combs said the outage should be a reminder to people to have multiple ways to promote themselves and their businesses.

“Just make sure they diversify their lead generation platforms, don’t 100% rely on social media,” she said.

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