For better or worse, cell phones and social media have become critical components of the daily lives of Americans. It’s how people of all ages communicate, manage finances, consume news and more.

Experts say the recent outages with AT&T and Meta have underscored how dependent we’ve become.

“Imagine someone turning off your hot water in the morning when you’re getting ready for work,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, a professor of communication and media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It interrupts routines that are very meaningful for our everyday functioning. But we don’t often view it that way.”

Fitzgerald and his students study how interwoven mobile technology is with our lives. He said Facebook, for example, functions as the internet in many developing countries, while here at home, the social media platform has become a key to get into other applications.

“The reason why they do this is because it allows them to share data,” he explained. “And effectively make money off of you.”

So when there is a global outage, the impact is wide-ranging.

“The cause can be cyberattack,” said University at Albany professor and Department of Cybersecurity chair Ariel Pinto. “Or, as they will call it in this series of incidents, technical failures.”

This oftentimes leaves consumers feeling left in the dark. But experts say it’s not necessarily reason for concern.

There are regulatory and public-relation matters in play, and it often takes time to identify the issue, which was the case with AT&T.

“A routine update didn’t work out the way it usually does,” Pinto explained. “That is a detail that may’ve only come up after hours of troubleshooting.”

While the outages proved to be disruptive, Fitzgerald hopes users found a way to embrace them.

“Treat it like a holiday, or a snow day. Let your brain focus on what’s present and immediate to you,” he said. “You might find you’ll want to do that when the internet or bigger platforms aren’t experiencing outages.”