Facebook went offline this week. Experts say we should log out, too

A Facebook outage forced people to talk a break from the company's apps on October 4.

(CNN)For nearly six hours on Monday, the world experienced a forced break from Facebook's social networking tools.

We lived to tell the tale. But how did we feel in the process?
Although relatively short, the Facebook outage showed "how reliant we are on social media in different ways to distract ourselves, to escape, to connect, to cope with anxiety and stress," according to Ian Kerner, a marriage and family therapist.
    When people can't scroll and post as they usually do, Kerner said they can become bored and vulnerable to difficult emotions and stressors -- sometimes without knowing how to cope with them.
      "People find that they are alone with their own thoughts. And they're a little bit of a stranger to themselves in a way. Prior to social media, I think we were much better at being on our own, finding ways to engage ourselves and remain curious," Kerner added.

      A sense of relief

      The collective nature of the outage had some of Kerner's clients feeling liberated, he said.
        "People definitely have a fear of missing out," Kerner explained. Losing or breaking a phone, or having a phone die can cause folks to panic, he said, as it prevents them from knowing what's happening and being connected to others.
        The outage, conversely, "provided a great sense of relief, because everybody was experiencing it. So people didn't feel as alone or as isolated or as panicked," Kerner told CNN.
        Therapist John Duffy reported having similar conversations with his clients on Monday.
        "Once people realized, 'oh, these networks are almost all down,' there was this bizarre, but very clear sense of relief. The feeling was 'I don't have anything I have to keep up with. I'm not missing out on anything,'" Duffy told CNN.
        During the outage, "people realized in real time the importance of face-to-face relationships, and the relative emptiness of a connection that takes place solely via Facebook or Instagram," he added.
        Clients that expressed relief during the outage took concrete steps to connect with others in real life, Duffy said. "One took a friend out for coffee. Another took a walk with a friend," he said.
        Some have come away from the experience with the realization that their fear of missing out was unjustified, and they could approach the apps with more moderation.
        "I think some of us realized yesterday, 'I'm way over-involved and invested in social media in my life'," Duffy said. People realized that "maybe I can check this once or twice a day instead of 20 or 30 times a day."

        Social media and the brain

        Most people are guilty of spending too much time scrolling and posting.
        Seven in 10 adult Facebook users in the US say they visit the site at least once a day, and 49% report visiting several times a day, according to Pew Research Center 2021 data. Some 59% of people visit Instagram at least once a day, with 38% visiting several times daily.
        But if some of us felt relieved when social networking apps went quiet for a while, why is it difficult to stop checking our feeds so frequently?
        Dr. Anna Lembke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, and the Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, looked at the brain for answers.