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Don't 'KILL' Facebook. Make It BETTER.

The five-hour outage of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp revealed as much about us as it did about those platforms. And it wasn't pretty.
Don't 'KILL' Facebook. Make It BETTER.
Image from: JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

As soon as I saw Facebook had gone down, I braced for it. The mockery. The snobbery. The flame wars about why Facebook was the devil and Twitter was the place to be. Certainly, the corporate media accounts had a blast, and showcased their cleverness in the very best way, and who doesn't love sharp wit?

I'm no Facebook evangelist, for sure, and Zuckerberg should burn in hell surrounded by clones of the many women who rejected him in college, ignoring him for all eternity, as far as I'm concerned. This outage, though, and the inevitable comparisons highlight the worst in people I respect and care about, too. People I work with regularly say Facebook should DIE, and consistently declare they're sooooooo glad they've never joined Facebook. People I love and respect on Twitter mocked us over there, asking us what we were going to be doing with all our free time, now that we weren't scrolling Facebook or participating in the downfall of democracy.

I mean, good for you all, but it's not like @Jack (Dorsey) hadn't contributed to Trump's rise. He didn't exactly resist amplifying his message, and it's also not like it's easy to have a conversation in 140 or 280 characters where the concept of threading comments is mystifying to many of us, but have your fun and enjoy your superiority. I may or may not have been prompted to remind you how Twitter devotees reacted when Twitter had it's own technical issues resulting in outages, but I'm not being petty. Nor am I pouting. I am saying that these attitudes hurt, but not for the reasons you think. It's not because I'm attached to an inferior team. I'm a Mets fan. I'm an Orioles fan. I'm used to this shit. This ain't that. It's because I'm disappointed people I love and respect are punching down on people who rely on these platforms for serious reasons.

While Facebook was out and Twitter gloated, all I could think about were the women in the groups I'm in where we buy groceries for single Black mothers with kids who have disabilities, or help set up hotels helping people get out of domestic violence situations. How for five hours they might have been wondering if they would eat or have shelter.

I thought about how many small businesses were on the edge. How many lonely people truly connect. How many disabled people find work through these platforms. How much money they may have lost that might be difficult for them to recover. And for once, the news did its job to bring this particular perspective. NBC, of all outlets, reported this: "Facebook, WhatsApp outage an annoyance for U.S., but a big deal in rest of the world."

The global Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram outage on Monday may have been an annoyance for the platforms' users in the United States, but it turned life upside down in parts of the rest of the world where the apps have become essential to commerce, health care and the basic functioning of government.

In India, doctors sounded the alarm about being unable to coordinate their schedules or share patient scans without WhatsApp. And in Malaysia, some small-business owners were left without a way to manage day-to-day operations as all business communications that are conducted through the app.

Think about that. And imagine living in a part of the world where you don't know if Facebook is down because a coup has taken place.

Mendoza, 28, said he relies heavily on Facebook for information on the country's charged presidential election campaign and Covid-19 updates from the government. On Monday, his feed ground to a halt.

He also was not able to reach his colleagues, friends and family via Facebook Messenger for hours.

Or your life-saving treatment had to be put on hold.

Doctors in India, where more than 500 million people use WhatsApp, warned Monday that the outage affected their ability to do their jobs. A doctor in Rajarhat tweeted that everything from coordinating schedules to posting ward updates happens on WhatsApp.

Another doctor in Mumbai said his surgical unit’s communication about a sick patient collapsed without WhatsApp as a scan result couldn't be shared, and doctors had to resort to phone calls instead.

So, I tried, believe me, I tried to be good natured about the gloating. I even participated in some of the flame-throwing, though mostly mocking the mockers.

But you know what broke me? An IG post shared by my disabled-college student-musician daughter.

After I saw that, my interest in staying a good sport in the face of the smug, superior bullsh*t evaporated into smoke, and my blood started to boil.

For better or worse, these platforms are lifelines for so many people who otherwise would be leading pretty lonely lives. For people who'd have a much harder time working from home. Sharing their talents. Offering their services. Asking for help. Support groups that help keep people functional. There are groups that teach people like me how to be less racist, and give me the opportunity to put that knowledge into practice by calling in (or calling out) other white people when they need to do better. These people don't deserve mockery, and these benefits don't deserve dismissal.

They deserve a better Facebook.

Enter Frances Haugen. Whistleblower heroine. Sure, the Senate hearing was a joke in that 11 of the 12 senators asking her to spill about Facebook were the recipients of campaign contributions from that same company. (Shout out to Senator Markey.)

The hearing was a joke in that it was whiter than the new whitest paint invented at Purdue University. There were, perhaps, a grand total of 30 seconds spoken about racism and harm to Black and brown communities on and by Facebook.

When I griped to my boss that of course no Black people were asking Haugen questions, she reminded me, "There's only one Black senator at the moment and he's busy killing police reform." It was the first time I laughed out loud in a while, though does cynical laughter count?

I realize the focus of the hearing was on the negative impact Facebook and its sister apps have on children and teens, but Black and brown children and teens exist, no? The fact that there are zero Black senators on that committee, and only one at the moment in the Senate at all, makes it even more of an imperative that the white ones should have made the extra effort to address the harm done to Black and brown kids especially. I mean, before it's illegal to teach anything about Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Bd. of Ed, can someone please educate these senators that white supremacy is indeed harmful to Black and brown children and teens, and that it runs rampant on these sites? God forbid anyone should have brought this up, or perhaps the Senate "comity" might have been disrupted.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, many of the questions were excellent — even from some of the GOP-ers, and Haugen's answers were devastating. Her testimony is being described as Facebook's worst nightmare, and to that I say, GOOD. But Facebook doesn't need to DIE. Instagram doesn't need to GO AWAY FOREVER. It needs to be restructured. Overhauled. Treated like the utility it is. Reform Section 230? Break up Facebook into smaller pieces? I'm not informed enough to have a definitive answer, but there are people who do, and have the power to make marked improvements. The one who has the most power went sailing yesterday while the hearing was going on.

What I do know is that Facebook isn't only about the asshole who went sailing. (Twitter isn't only about the pretentious twat with the overgrown beard who refuses to add an "edit" feature, either.) Tech guru Dave Winer described Facebook best:

It's created mostly by the people who use it. It's what remains of all the great ideas of networking in the 90s and 00s. A ton of good stuff happens in FB, and a bunch of nasty shit, because -- because Facebook is us -- it's human.

Can you help us out?

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