This is an interesting week for Facebook. I quit using Facebook about 8 years ago and never signed up for Instagram. I did not see any value in these services. And looking at the recent revelations by the whistleblower, I am glad that I am not on these platforms. But I (have to) use WhatsApp to stay connected with my family and friends. There is no alternative. There is strong social pressure in India that requires the use of WhatsApp. My parents use it. Our extended families are hooked to WhatsApp. All my friends are on WhatsApp. Even if I dislike Facebook’s business practices, WhatsApp is a necessary evil. When these systems went down, I was expecting minor inconvenience due to the unavailability of WhatsApp.
But Facebook’s downtime irritated me even so. What happened was mildly interesting. Vaidehi is due for her set of first Flu shots. She needs to take 2 shots, separated by 30 days. During her last wellness visit, her pediatrician indicated that the Flu vaccines would be available in the first week of October. Vaidehi’s regular visit is in the first week of November. I thought it would be a good idea to plan her first shot in early October so she could take the second shot at her regular wellness visit in November.
Her pediatrician’s office depends on Facebook to inform the vaccine schedule. It’s convenient to check their Facebook page to see if vaccines are available and what are the visit times. The alternative is to call the office and stay on hold for 15-20 minutes. As the pandemic has caused nationwide shortages in healthcare, especially nursing care, these appointment slots fill up fast. Due to this, I wanted to get in front of the line to schedule the appointment as soon as it was available. But Facebook was down, and we couldn’t get the information in time.
Anyway, it was not a big deal. I was able to get an appointment by following up over the phone. But it kept me wondering about the situation we are in. A single company has so much control over how the information could be disseminated. The promise of the internet was to make it easy to exchange the information. But if a mistake in the DNS configuration for one company’s servers brings the internet to halt, something has gone very wrong.