I’ve had a recent glimpse into what life might be like to be without Facebook. It wasn’t a pretty picture.
I never used to be a big fan of Facebook. I went through the ups and downs with Friendster (mostly downs if you can recall their infamously poor uptime). MySpace held my attention for a couple of months until all the spammed friend requests starting rolling in. “Been there, done that,” I thought. I didn’t need a Facebook account. That was that.
One night, I logged into my email and found a “You have successfully registered for Facebook” message sitting in my inbox. My wife had a big grin on her face. She said, “Too bad, you’ll thank me for it later.” Nope, I don’t think so…
Here I am, over a year later on October 3rd, opening Firefox (Facebook is my home page), getting ready to post some new pics of the kids, to find out what my cousin in Virginia is doing tonight and to check if my energy refilled in my level 212 Mafia Wars account, when I get the following message:
I’ve never seen this page before, but I don’t give it a second thought. I deal with data every day at work and sometimes maintenance is needed. My wife had no problem getting into her account, so it is probably just work on some individual databases. I decide I’ll check back tomorrow. Tomorrow arrives, same message. That’s certainly more than a “few hours”, but it’s the weekend, so I give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like I am paying for this, right (more on this later)? Monday is now here, and I am slightly annoyed that I was not able to share this great vid of my son dancing to Thriller. I dig around for 10 minutes, finally find a contact form and hope for the best.
Tuesday is here with no luck and I start to feel anxious and I’m not sure why. I think it’s a symptom of Facebook withdrawal. I decide to Google “Facebook Site Maintenance” and this is where the fun begins. Turns out I am not the only one. Multiple blog topics have been started on the outage. Twitter is lit up with complaints. People are posting phone numbers to the Facebook office and contacting all the news outlets. Lawsuits are threatened. Despite my withdrawal feelings, it’s hard for me to sympathize with some of the emotions I’m seeing until I read a blog post that a father communicates with his daughter in Iraq through Facebook and has no back up plan to contact her.
Besides the trivial “Get a Life” arguments I see in the blogs, I find the best debates are about what Facebook’s obligations are to its user base. At this point, they have not come out with any statement about the outage, and have mostly ignored emails and phone calls to them. Most who argue for Facebook say it is a free service and because of that, owe its user base nothing. Of course, the ad revenue they generate from their 300 million users, along with the personal data they have from this user base points otherwise. But how do you quantify this worth and obligation to a single user?
On Tuesday afternoon, Caroline McCarthy, CNET’s Facebook Specialist posts an article that has Facebook finally confirming the outage  and claiming to have a resolution within 24 hours. I am hoping this will be true. I’d like to post some pictures of my daughter’s 1st birthday on Thursday.
By Saturday, I am rather annoyed, both at the continued site outage and at myself for letting this bother me. There seems to be no fix in site. Facebook now includes a message about there being a login problem when I get a login failure. Thanks. I’ve been “socially” excluded for a whole week now and I actually find it strangely refreshing.
Facebook, it was fun while it lasted. Your stranglehold on me is officially over.
On Monday, I check out some blogs to see the level of hatred that 9 days of Facebook withdrawal can bring out in people. Surprisingly, instead of anger, I see joy. Some people are able to log in.
I go over to Facebook and enter my login info. I am greeted by:
LAST SEVERAL DAYS? I close the message. I check out what some of my old high school friends have been doing in the past week. I look at some photos. I go back to the home page and I see the apology again. It won’t go away. Facebook has decided to repeatedly apologize to me. I’m sure this will be enough for most. I am still undecided. I do know this forced break will be good for me in the long run, as I hope it will be for others. There are definitely some lessons that can be learned here by all parties.
CNET publishes another article on Monday afternoon. Facebook finally fesses up . Turns out I was one of the 0.05 percent affected by a database problem. That equates to 150 thousand out of 300 million.
I guess I am one of the lucky ones.