Facebook outage prompts people to call 9-1-1

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

We all know that Facebook can suck you in – log on, start reading and scrolling, and before you know it, you’ve been staring at the screen for a half hour.  People are obsessed about posting statuses – they post what they’re eating, what they’re angry about, what they’re celebrating, and everything in between. Facebook has become more than a preoccupation for some people – it has become a part of their everyday lives and they can’t live without it. That’s why, when Facebook experienced a huge glitch in their system last week and it went completely down, people went crazy. 

Their source of obsession, or even addiction, was taken away from them for a time and the reactions were so intense that the only way people knew how to respond was by calling 9-1-1. Officials at one Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department station started getting calls from people in the area saying that Facebook went down and asked when they would be fixing it. The sheriff’s department sent out a couple tweets saying that Facebook is not a law enforcement issue and they didn’t know when it will be back up.  (1) 

Incredible, right?  Addictive behavior manifests itself in many ways and Facebook addiction is very real. When the source of the “high” is removed, individuals are left reeling. The compulsive behavior of yearning to be on social media websites, and the significant time that people invest on these sites can be seen as a consequence of classic operant conditioning. We are subjects in the Skinner box. The lever is the computer and the rewards are the social media “likes” and positive comments from our friends. Those seeking acceptance and love can get lured into Facebook because the rewards they seek, such as social acceptance and love, are provided in rapid-fire fashion. The more social rewards they receive, the more time they invest, post, play, and interact on Facebook to gain increasing numbers of digital rewards. 

The problem with technology is that it requires minimal rest period between rewarding behaviors. For instance, some people may get addicted to skiing, but weather, money and travel requires people to rest between ski trips, reducing the risk of developing "skiing addiction". However, with social media, there is essentially little rest periods between online social interactions, and people can interact with hundreds and thousands of people, stimulating reward pathways in the brain that may lead to addiction.Technology and Internet addiction is very real so unplug from social media and give your brains rest. Turn off your phones at night. Get plenty of sleep. Limit your time on social media to less than one to two hours daily for non-work related social time online.


1. “911 calls about Facebook outage angers L.A. County sheriff’s officials.” Los Angeles Times. August 1, 2014. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-911-calls-about-facebook-outage-angers-la-sheriffs-officials-20140801-htmlstory.html