Shabbos on a Monday?
On Monday, Oct. 4, there was an outage, and it created an uproar across the country. It was not the usual type of outage. It did not lead to spoiled food, sweating or freezing at home. It was an outage of the most modern variety: the app outage. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram stopped working Monday, Oct. 4 in the middle of the business day, starting around noon. This resulted in chaos that threatened our everyday lives. Throughout the day, I overheard many complaints about the outage. Twitter blew up, and many people turned to other apps like Reddit and Snapchat to fill the time. It made me think about our reliance on technology and how these apps became central to our daily lives.
Do we really use these apps for our everyday consumption of technology so much so that without them we are lost? Is it not strange that we find ourselves bored when we can’t check someone’s status or can’t see someone’s messages? If someone was using these apps for work, that’s a different story. I'm referring more to the free use of these apps on which we spend so much of our day without even realizing it.
I think about this sometimes when I am waiting around. In the waiting room at the doctor, at a restaurant or at the Subway station. No one just waits anymore. A screen is required in front of me, and without it, I twiddle my thumbs, feeling incomplete and bored. Ultimately, the moment passes, and my name is called, the food comes or I reach my stop.
I don’t really use Instagram, so that did not bother me too much. I use Facebook for browsing when I find myself not doing anything, so I was relatively unaffected because I was in school for most of the outage. When I am not in school, however, I use Facebook a lot. WhatsApp’s being down was very frustrating, mainly because I use it for school almost as much as I use it for other things. Regardless of my own issues stemming from the outage, I noticed my personal reliance on these apps more than I had beforehand.
Between classes, I had some time and thought about the entire experience. What did the outage mean to me? How could I use this opportunity to grow? I know that I rely on technology too much to fill the extra time in my schedule. I also know that I am not alone. While I haven't taken a survey, I can say with confidence that a good number of people feel the same way.
I am sure there are more useful things to do with my free time that don’t involve technology. Reading, learning, working, studying and similar activities are all valuable and beneficial to our day. I usually find myself only reading on Shabbos. Those 25 hours force me to open a physical book and read, rather than browse Facebook; perhaps I should make it a habit during the week as well. It doesn’t have to be as big a commitment as never using any social media, but even something small like Mishna Yomi rather than Twitter scrolling could be a helpful step. Whatever it is, there are probably many more useful activities that are a better use of the time we waste with social media.
I think we can all learn from this experience. It is important to self-reflect, and this short saga can provide a much-needed mirror to look at and say, “I can improve myself. I can do better.” These reflections help us move forward and progress toward our goals. I can only try my best to better myself in this respect, and I implore the readers of this article to join me. Take a break from technology once in a while during the day. Make “Shabbos” more than once a week.
Photo Caption: Facebook outage illustration
Photo Credit: Unsplash