QUINCY — For most of us, Facebook’s five-hour outage on Monday was merely annoying. It prevented us from wasting time at work to mindlessly scroll on our phones to find out what is happening with friends and family.
However, for some, Monday’s outage cost them business.
“I was planning on doing a live video that day. Without being able to go to Facebook, I couldn’t,” said Kristin Peters, owner of the Yellow Kiss Boutique, 127 N. Sixth. “Instead, I edited pictures and changed my day around. When we get boxes of new arrivals, a lot of times I’ll post updates on Instagram. I couldn’t do that either.
“I didn’t get any sales from social media because nobody was on social media, nor could I post anything. (The outage) affected my day and affected my business. Typically I have things out or items out on social media to show customers, and I couldn’t do that.”
The New York Times reported this week that Facebook’s apps — which include, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus — began displaying error messages around 10:40 a.m. Within minutes, Facebook had disappeared from the internet.
More than 3.5 billion people use Facebook
The outage lasted more than five hours before some of the apps slowly came back to life.
The outage also showed us how dependent most of the world is on Facebook.
The New York Times’s story notes more than 3.5 billion people around the world use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp for a variety of reasons, including the expansion of their businesses through advertising and outreach.
Michelle Schuckman is a social media specialist at Vervocity, a Quincy business which specializes in website and mobile application development. She said people saw engagement and traffic fall on social media Monday.
“But other people probably took more of a direct hit because their sales directly were connected to any ad campaigns out there on Facebook,” she said. “A lot of that would be like e-commerce clients who sell objects or services on their website. If that were the case, and they were running a Facebook ad directing traffic to their online sales portal, they lost probably a lot of money on that.”
Bergman: ‘It is eye-opening to see how much we rely on social media’
Jordan Bergman owns the Find, an online women’s fashion boutique in Quincy. She said the shutdown of Facebook and Instagram briefly affected her business.
“Just not to the point where I potentially could have lost money,” she wrote in a text. “If I had a big release or a time-sensitive event coming up where I needed to reach my customers, it would have been more crucial. I always have other tasks and things I can work on like my website.”
Technology outages are not uncommon. For so many apps go dark from the world’s largest social media company at the same time was highly unusual. The New York Times reported Facebook’s last significant outage was in 2019, when a technical error affected its sites for 24 hours.
The company apologized for the outage.
“We’re sorry,” Facebook said on Twitter after its apps started becoming accessible again. “Thank you for bearing with us.”
That five-hour window, Bergman said, was a shot of reality.
“It is eye-opening to see how much we rely on social media for business and pleasure,” she said. “It also showed how important it is to reach customers through other avenues such as email and TikTok.”
Schuckman: ‘If a person can’t get a direct answer right away, they go somewhere else’
“Monday was frustrating, but I have so many other things to do that I was able to switch it around,” Peters said. “Because of social media, all of my customers and contacts are all on Facebook. A lot of times, I contact people through Facebook. If I have something on hold for them, it’s easier to send a message on Facebook rather than text them or email them.
“It might be bad to say that we’re so reliant on social media, but it’s a big way we market in our business.”
People are accustomed to immediate gratification through information gathered by their phones, so Monday’s outage tested people’s patience.
“If a person can’t get a direct answer right away, they go somewhere else,” Schuckman said. “When a potential client goes online and searches for a product or service, Facebook will come up. A lot of people go to Facebook to see the location of the client or send a private message. They’re looking for an answer immediately. That’s why Facebook puts a lot of emphasis on your reaction time to messages and posts on your page. You don’t want to have anything longer than an hour wait to get back to any of these people.
“Then you have the power outage for five or six hours? There was no touching those clients with a 10-foot pole.”