It was a fate worse than Google+.
Facebook was down. For a horrifying, soul-shattering, mind-collapsing 40 minutes, in the wee hours as Monday leaked into Tuesday, it was down, taking Instagram with it.
We were helpless and destitute. After years with Facebook as a crutch, we had nowhere left to lean, like ivy without a wall. Parents and children who had gotten by for years without having to say a word to each other now gazed into one another’s eyes with horror.
A few scenes from my life will give you an idea of the carnage.
Minute 1: I reload the page. Nothing. When were my friends born? Who are my friends? I don’t know. I may never know again.
Minute 2: “Facebook is gone,” I tell myself, turning pale. “All birthdays have been canceled. You must do your best to re-create the experience yourself.”
Minute 10: “I like that baby you have there,” I whisper through the bedroom window of a girl I have not seen since elementary school.
She looks up at me, startled.
“So cute,” I say. “And his little outfit? Heart heart –” I try to wink. I have never actually winked without a keyboard before. It comes out like a horrible grimace. “Wink,” I say, apologetically.
Minute 20: “Hello?” says a girl I went to college with. “Alexandra? Oh man, it’s been forever. So nice of you to call! How are you?”
“Are you engaged?” I ask.
“If you were,” I say, “I would like it.”
There is a pause. “I am dating someone,” she says.
“I would like to see every available picture of you together,” I say. “Now.”
“I’m going to hang up,” she says.
Minute 23: I telephone an ex-boyfriend. “I thought we’d agreed to erase each other’s numbers from our phones,” he says, with no preamble whatsoever, like a faulty copy of the Constitution.
“Listen,” I say, “do you have — could you by any chance mail me some pictures that show your life now so I can leaf through them at 3 a.m. to determine if you’re happy?”
There is a noise on the other end of the phone that sounds like a long sigh, or maybe a balloon deflating.
“What?” I say. “This is a normal thing to want.”
Minute 25: I ring the doorbell and clear my throat. “I’m so proud to announce,” I say, when the door opens, shuffling my feet modestly, “that I have attained a professional milestone.”
The person in the doorway gives me a puzzled look. “Do I know you?” he asks.
“We went to summer camp together,” I say. “In sixth grade.”
Minute 30: “I’d like to know all about everything you are doing,” a stranger asks me. This stranger is dressed as a large cartoon mouse, a costume that makes guessing age and gender impossible. “Can we be friends?”
I panic. “How many of my current friends do you know?”
The stranger swallows. “Thirty. Kevin and some people whose names you can’t really place.”
“Oh sure,” I say. “Welcome to the club.”
Minute 34: “Hey,” I mumble, eating a canape off the funeral buffet, “I know we met only once at a party, but I see that your grandmother has died and I’m not sure what to say besides: I like it.”
Minute 35: I call a stonemason. “Listen,” I say. “I have had a very fleeting and poorly spelled thought that I would like to engrave somewhere forever where people can see it and it will be impossible to remove.”
“Are you sure you don’t want a tattoo?” he asks.
“I’m sure,” I say. “It needs to last longer than that and be visible to corporations.”
Minute 39: I receive a strange letter asking whether I wish to reconnect with my great-uncle, who has been dead for years now.
Minute 40: I show up on the doorstep of my high school best friend’s house. Her mother answers the door.
“Please,” I say, “tell me what you think about politics, especially what the president is doing wrong.”
Minute 41: Facebook is restored. I exhale for the first time in what feels like months. I gaze at the blue-and-white homepage with relief. So many statuses unshared, unliked, unacknowledged. How can we begin to rebuild?
At least I know my limits. At no point did I make any effort to poke anyone. Even when Facebook’s up, that’s a bad idea.