How UAE residents managed life without WhatsApp and Facebook

Published on October 6 2021

When WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook went down in a global outage, residents rediscovered the joy of having face-to-face chats with loved ones - a rarity in many homes these days.

Pareeth Rawther , an operations director at a private firm and a family man, said that in those six hours, he learnt some important lessons on relationships.

"Usually, it is a norm for all of us to dig into social media platforms once we are back from work. However, with the global outage, we had nothing to do for a moment, so we started to interact as a family. It was a wonderful time interacting with my wife and children."

Thanks to the outage, homemaker Muneera Beevi has set the ball rolling on some new in-house rules.

"I realised that we are all addicted to the Internet. Now, we have made it a rule not to carry smartphones to the dining table. We will also be having at least an hour of interpersonal interaction from now on."

Farheen Fathima, a Grade 6 student at Abu Dhabi Indian School, added: "We need to take the positives out of social media platforms but never get addicted."

Meanwhile, during the breakdown, Fatin Elkhalil, senior public relations executive, spoke to her mother over the phone instead of sending her messages in WhatsApp like usual.

"I usually chat with my mother on WhatsApp. She keeps sending messages every 2 hours or so, asking about what I am doing and how my day went in the office. However, yesterday, I missed seeing her messages in the evening. At that moment, I realised that many social media platforms are down. So, after a while, we spoke to each other over the phone. It was a lovely evening without the use of social media platforms."

Dr Shaju George, psychiatrist at Medeor Hospital Dubai, noted that people, including kids, have become digitally addicted.

"In today's world, most of us who are using gadgets and the Internet are addicted to some extent, whether it's mild, moderate, or severe. Kids, in particular, have been glued to gadgets during this pandemic where they were forced to sit indoors and attend only online classes."

Dr George said people tend to ignore physical and mental issues as a result of the addiction.

"When someone is addicted to [social media], their priorities change. Gadgets and the Internet become top priority and he or she starts ignoring all other responsibilities. It results in problems in a person's personal, academic, professional and family domains. It causes multiple physical and emotional problems, like aches and pains, dry eyes, back and neck pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, obesity and all other lifestyle diseases."

Dr George stressed that a digital detox is a must "but not like cold turkey" as in the case of yesterday's outage. "It was an eye-opener for all of us on the menace of gadget addiction."