Anxious moments after big tech six-hour outage

Social Media [Courtesy]

The six-hour social media downtime that gripped parts of the world on Monday affected millions of Kenyans, especially the youth.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg had to issue an apology after Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp crashed.

The company said the hitch was due to a “faulty configuration change” to its routers.

Kenyans use Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for various purposes, including fundraising, sharing documents, pictures, videos and making calls. 

Monday’s outage just revealed how Kenyans are obsessed with social media because the hitch was akin to power blackout in the whole country.

Twitter and Telegram came in handy for those who have the two accounts.

Memes started doing rounds on Twitter illustrating how users of the three were being frustrated.

To some, the psychological torture the downtime caused was significant.

“I restarted my phone several times, bought bundles but nothing was happening. I had not known that there was an issue. The agony was just too much,’’ said Norah Kwamboka, a city resident.

Clement Mutimba was among those frustrated by the downtime. He was working on an assignment for his boss and was to share it with him on Monday evening.

There were 8.7 million Facebook users in Kenya as at January 2020.

According to the Global Web Index’s 2020 Social Media User Trends Report, Kenya has one of the highest percentage of monthly WhatsApp users, with 97 per cent of internet users who use WhatsApp every month.

There were 2.2 million Instagram users in Kenya in January 2021, accounting for 3.9 per cent of the entire population. Majority of them were men at 52.6 per cent. People aged 18 to 24 were the largest user group at 9 million.

Influencers, who use the social media sites to market products and services, were hard hit by the downtime.

But to some, the outage offered them ample time to do other things and even sleep earlier.

Majority who are busy throughout the day use the evening to chat with friends till late in the night and the Monday evening downtime was a shocker.

According to psychiatrist Erick Njuguna, Monday’s downtime was quite telling in terms of where “we are as people in terms of use of social media”.

“It is very clear to us as mental health professionals that social media has the ability to trigger anxiety, depression and other negative feelings like jealousy because of comparison, and especially among the young people. Internet addiction is now a recognised issue within our circles,” said Dr Njuguna.

However, University of Nairobi lecturer Weloba Wekesa says the use of social media should be limited because people have underestimated its destructive nature.

Dr Weloba, a literature and linguist don, has written a paper titled Hate online: The creation of the “Other”, which explores the dynamics of hate on social media in Kenya.

Although he uses WhatsApp and Facebook, he encourages people to avoid spending too much time on social media.

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