Facebook outage: UAE experts push for digital detox

If the sudden social media outage left you huffing and puffing, then you may need to rethink your screen time.

The recent social media blackout clearly served as a wake-up call for many.

As Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram went down, some were left ‘with nothing to do’, while others called it ‘a blessing in disguise’ as they got to spend quality time with their families and friends. Many also enjoyed the quiet, sans irritating beeps and notifications from their phones.

ALSO READ: Why Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were down for 6 hours

Even though most justified their anxiety on not being able to connect to their loved ones, the outage brought to fore how heavily reliant people are on social media.

GH, a working woman, said she did not realise that WhatsApp was down and frantically kept checking her phone to see the “blue tick”, which shows that the message was delivered.

“I began to experience anxiety as I thought there was something wrong with my phone. I took out the battery and tried different things to get my message delivered, but nothing worked. I ended up wasting a lot of time just trying to ‘fix’ what I thought was a phone issue. And that’s when I knew this is dangerous,” she told Khaleej Times.


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“This gadget was dominating my life, my mental health. I felt helpless. I realised that this forced digital detox was a wake-up call for me to limit my usage of social media,” she said.

What is a digital detox and why you may need it

Mental health experts said that if this sudden social media outage left you huffing and puffing, then you need to rethink your screen time and establish better digital-real life balance.

Many may need a digital detox — which refers to a period of time when a person refrains from using devices, such as smartphones, televisions, computers, and tablets.

Dr Mehnaz Zafar Ali, consultant psychiatrist at Al Amal Hospital, and director at large for World Federation of Mental Health, said digital detox is highly recommended for one’s mental well-being and revitalisation.

“The whole concept of detoxification is that locus of control has to be internal — which means there has to be ‘intrinsic motivation to change’. Sudden, unplanned detox can be provoke anxiety due to withdrawal symptoms, which is what happened recently due to the sudden disconnect from social media.

“This should make us ponder upon the degree of dependency we have on social media, and we should proactively help ourselves detach and disengage, while drawing tech boundaries.”

Dr Ali said that due to social distancing and isolation protocols amid Covid-19, social media has become an effective coping strategy for many.

“The fear of uncertainty and missing out completely is averted by social connectivity. It is pertinent to create a balanced life in this digital world, and the only sustainable way would be engaging in planned detox. This would be a great initiative at the personal, community or global level,” she said.

Dr Asad Sadiq, consultant psychiatrist and managing director of The Psychiatry and Therapy Centre in Dubai, said many realised they were ‘addicted’ to some extent.

“The social media outage interrupted sleep for some; while others began reminiscing about bygone times, when people did more face-to-face talking and on the phone. Some wondered: what if Facebook never came back and all the data was lost?

“Surprisingly, some people also adapted very quickly. Phone calls were made; other apps downloaded and used; Snapchat, Telegram etc. In conclusion, the outage showed us all how important social media is in our lives; and it is here to stay,” Dr Sadiq said.


Saman Haziq

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