The Era of Digital Dependency: The Harms of Centralization

Fernando Nunes
4 min readMar 14, 2024
Blue Planet Studio | Getty Images

Just over a week ago, on Tuesday, March 5th, the IT intern (it’s always them!) tripped over the wires at Meta. This caused a failure that took Instagram and Facebook offline.

There were over 40,000 and 30,000 complaints from Facebook and Instagram users, respectively, here in Brazil, according to the Downdetector website, which gathers complaints about apps and websites in various countries.

But the problem wasn’t just a “privilege” in our “bostil”, I mean Brazil. In Uncle Sam and Mark Zuckerberg’s land, there were over 580,000 complaints from Facebook users and 90,000 from Instagram. And in the Land of the Crown, now in the head of Uncle Charles, complaints were over 150,000 on Instagram and 25,000 on Facebook.

“Earlier today, a technical issue caused people to have trouble accessing some of our services. We resolved the issue as quickly as possible for all those affected and apologize for any inconvenience,” said Andy Stone (Meta’s Communications Director).

It is a cute way to downplay the fault of the wide-eyed intern

Our digital dependence is almost inevitable

But now, speaking seriously, in the digital age we live in, dependence on apps has become almost inevitable. From social networks to messaging apps, many of our interactions and daily activities are directly linked to these platforms. However, the centralization of these services in the hands of a few companies brings with it a series of harms that we need to be aware of.

The recent incident involving the Facebook and Instagram outage, caused by a simple stumble in wires (obviously not that, just an irony to lighten the mood), clearly illustrates the vulnerability of our digital dependence. More than 40,000 complaints in Brazil and 580,000 in the United States show how we are all connected to these platforms and how a problem in one of them can affect millions of people worldwide.

The excessive dependence on these apps makes us hostages of their functionalities, often making us forget that there are other forms of communication and interaction. Furthermore, the centralization of these services in companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) creates an environment conducive to abuses of power and lack of transparency.

One of the main harms of this dependence is the loss of privacy. By sharing so much personal information on these platforms, we are constantly exposed to possible data leaks and misuse of our information. The recent controversy involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is a clear example of this, showing how our data can be used without our consent to influence opinions and behaviors.

I’ll open a parenthesis here and take the liberty of recommending a Netflix documentary, “The Great Hack,” which talks precisely about this Facebook (now Meta) and Cambridge Analytica case. It’s very interesting and, at the same time, scary.

If you’d like, I can bring some more series and documentary recommendations on this subject in the next newsletter, as well as how we are “treated and seen” by algorithms. Just reply to this email saying “I want recommendations.”

Furthermore, excessive reliance on these applications can have negative impacts on our mental health. The constant use of social media, for example, can lead to constant comparison with others, generating feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The feeling of always being connected and available can also lead to burnout and a lack of time for offline activities, which are essential for our well-being.

In the face of these challenges, we must rethink our relationship with technology and strive for a healthy balance in our use of applications. Diversifying our forms of communication and interaction, limiting time spent on social media, and seeking decentralized and safer alternatives are important steps in reducing our dependency and protecting our privacy and mental health.

The dependence on applications centralized in a few companies is a problem that affects us all. It is time to reflect on our digital habits and seek healthier, safer ways to engage with technology.

This text is part of Fernando’s newsletter, which is sent every Wednesday at 6:08 am NY time. It will be a pleasure to see you there. Subscribe now.

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Fernando Nunes

I turn words into stories, into moments and emotions. Ask me how: odnanrefserep@gmail.com. It will be a pleasure to speak with you!