Extremely Offline

Imagine A World Without Social Media

No platforms? No problem.

What would a world without social media look like? The 2021 Facebook outage gave us a taste.
PM Images/Getty Images

Facebook offered us a taste of what a social media-free world would look like on Oct. 4 when the eponymous app, Instagram, and WhatsApp went dark for over five hours. I’m proud to report I didn’t discover the outage until the sites were down for at least 12 minutes, according to my group chats. (I was taking a particularly long shower.)

While the day was hellish for anyone who uses WhatsApp to communicate with their family, jokes about the crash abounded on Twitter, and the compulsory unplugging made some of us just a bit… I don’t know, happier? By the end of the day, I felt so digitally detoxed that I didn’t even want Twitter, TikTok, or Pinterest — although, to be fair, who really wants Pinterest? Mark Zuckerberg may have lost a few billion dollars, but I enjoyed myself. It was so ’90s!

But the forced experiment begged the broader question: What would the world be like if Facebook and co. never came back online? Or if social media were gone for good? A few ideas:

  1. The only way to amass an enormous amount of followers would be to start a cult.
  2. People would announce their engagements the old-fashioned way: By standing in the middle of the street and bellowing at the top of their lungs. This would be preferable because instead of feeling bad about yourself, you’d feel bad for them and their involuntary public display of affection.
  3. When you put on a cute outfit to go out, you would only take one (1) photo for the group chat.
  4. If your mom wanted to embarrass you in front of all your friends, there would be no photos for her to tag you in. She’d have to get really into Olivia Rodrigo or something.
  5. You would literally have no idea what Charli D’Amelio was doing right now. You might not even know Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian were dating. And even if you did, you certainly wouldn’t have every single one of their relationship milestones mapped out chronologically in the part of your brain that could otherwise remember what you learned in AP Physics.
  6. You wouldn’t know if your friends were hanging out without you. You’d have your suspicions, yes — for example, when you got added to and then removed from that group chat — but you wouldn’t have an Instagram story as absolute proof.
  7. You’d have to just imagine your friends’ babies were cute. You would never know for sure. Same with your own, I think.
  8. When your friend told you to forget about the guy who’s clearly ghosting you, you wouldn’t be able to counter with “But he looked at my Instagram story!”
  9. Your neck would have full range of motion. This could get bad — what if you look directly into the sun, instead of staring at your phone? Bring glasses.
  10. You’d have to actually ask your crush out, instead of just liking two of his Instagram posts from 2018.
  11. You would forget your brother’s birthday, so in that sense, things would stay the same.
  12. Bachelorette parties would still be annoying but for different reasons.
  13. The only one of your friends to photograph her brunch would be the one tracking it for her nutritionist.
  14. Thoughts would stay in your head instead of being vomited into tweets every three minutes. You might even get headaches from all those stored-up thoughts taking up space.
  15. You might not know your high school nemesis had joined an MLM until she was literally selling you toilet paper outside the Auntie Anne’s pretzel station at the mall, at which point you’d be so taken aback that you’d agree to join. Whoops.
  16. Your Republican cousins would still be Republicans, but at least you wouldn’t have to think about it that often.
  17. Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t be the nefarious coder-turned-tech-mogul he is today — he’d just be that dude you left-swiped on Hinge. Except… how would you log into Hinge?
  18. You’d have room on your phone to download Headspace if you wanted to get into meditation. You don’t, but you’d have the option.
  19. You wouldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi in every coffee shop you ever visited because you’d be OK just drinking your coffee without checking your phone every six seconds.
  20. You might read a book.
  21. You would finally know peace.
  22. But you might not know how to take the perfect selfie. So maybe being online is worth it, after all.