What would happen if Facebook shut down forever?

On the afternoon of Sept. 24, Facebook went down. The outage lasted only 10 minutes, but I’m sure after the panic that surely ensued in every lecture hall across Brock campus, professors enjoyed the undivided attention of Facebook-deprived students — until the service was restored, of course.

“Mass panic” is how the CBC described the unavailability of the service for the 0.0069 per cent of a day that it was down. Looking only at hashtags like “#Facebookdown” and “#Facebook” during the global outage, 23 per cent of those discussing the issue on alternative social media sites like Twitter and Instagram were from the United States, 12 per cent were from Poland, and 6 per cent were from both England and Canada. While America may ‘run on Dunkin’s”, whether we like it or not, the English speaking world (at least) runs on Facebook.

There are 1.49 billion Facebook users — it’s become a way of life, rather than a harmless daily routine since its inception in 2004. With an online population greater than China’s, Facebook represents a massive player in both local and international business, in addition to our society’s acquired reliance on the service.

Brittany Brooks- The Brock Press

Brittany Brooks- The Brock Press

So, that brings up the extremely (terrifying and) poignant question of “what would happen if Facebook shut down?” Socially of course, internet dwellers would escape the darkness of their basements, drying their eyes from the artificial glow of their computer screens as they make their best attempts to rejoin civilization. Just joking, people would likely just find another social network. Perhaps Twitter would finally make it to the mainstream, Yik Yak would be used for something other than drug-dealing or, heaven forbid, Google Plus might find an audience other than Google employees.

Regardless of whatever online riots might come out of it, much more important is how businesses (and the inter-connected world economy) would escape the shut-off. Online content relies so heavily on the users ‘sharing’ content, that if a major player like Facebook were to be taken out of the equation, it would be detrimental.

This doesn’t just apply to sites like clickhole.com or 9gag.com, but major news sites like The Globe and Mail and The Huffington Post, which are cutting back on journalists, but tripling the sizes of their social-media curation teams. Major metropolitan dailies are just as afraid of what would happen if Facebook were to ‘turn off the pipe’, as even a slight change in the set-up of the Facebook page system, or a minuscule alteration of the evasive “Facebook algorithm” could drastically alter the way content-driven sites operate.

While we may live in an “information age”, there are many investigative reports that suggest the opposite of what common sense might be telling us — that we have less access to information than ever. How could this possibly be true? Just look at a page of Google search results. The ease of access of the information means that users will likely find what they need on the first or second page of search engines. Meanwhile, anything past page three becomes a lost document to the world. Facebook is one way to confront this issue.

Whereas individual users have no ability to change what results Google displays, Facebook allows users to curate information and share it with their social networks, like many other sites as well. By removing this mechanism, it would essentially cut the diversity of information we have direct access to in half.

Refresh your browsers constantly, ladies and gentlemen. Hold your Facebook friends close, and keep your Spotted at Brock posts coming, because if Facebook does shut down, it’ll mean a lot more than a simple migration between social media sites.

Well, enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose. So like The Brock Press’ Facebook page (while you still can), and the challenge is out there to hipsters, who have the opportunity — no, the God-given duty — to discover the next Facebook before it’s popular.

-Steve Nadon

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