THIS week the unthinkable happened - social media disappeared.

For more than five hours on Monday evening, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down. While such service outages are not uncommon, ones of this length are unusual, and it caused something of a global panic. Other platforms such as Twitter saw huge surges in traffic as people tried to get back online.

In a statement, Facebook said the problem had been caused by a configuration change to the “backbone routers” co-ordinating traffic between the firm’s data centres. Which sounds like something our IT team says whenever I report a digital problem. They might as well be speaking in ancient Mandarin.

Of course this week’s service outage was a major issue for many people, not least companies of all sizes which rely on these social media giants to conduct business. And the incident has again highlighted the potential problems with having large portions of the internet reliant on just a handful of large companies and where one issue can bring down huge segments of online services.

But, while many people were tearing their hair out at being booted offline, or simply didn’t know what to do with themselves, others may have relished the peace. It wasn’t particularly convenient for me to discover, at around 6pm on Monday, that I couldn’t schedule any of my articles on Facebook, but it wasn’t exactly the end of the world.

And, don’t say it out loud, but wasn’t it actually quite nice to just step away from social media for a while? In a 24-hour digital world, we are expected to be on it pretty much all the time, from the moment we wake up and reach for our phones to the moment we fall asleep at night. And I don’t think that’s particularly healthy.

Social media platforms have their uses, and many of us rely on them in various ways every day, but I think we need to take a break now and then. People of my generation, who didn’t grow up online, perhaps wouldn’t find it too much of a challenge to be without Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp for a few hours. I certainly didn’t miss any of them on Monday evening. But most of the younger people I know are barely off their phones, and would be lost without their online world.

And it’s a world that can quickly turn toxic. You only have to look at how the Government is being called on to fix “substantive weaknesses” in the draft Online Safety Bill, concerning issues such as women’s safety, scams, grooming, bullying and children’s mental health, to know how toxic social media can be.

Amy Hart, a former Love Island contestant, recently appeared in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee to give evidence on influencer culture and urge ministers to crack down on online abuse. She told the committee that even before 7am she often has “a barrage of messages” hurling abuse at her. One of her death threats was traced back to a 13-year-old.

I had a death threat earlier this year and I still get the shivers thinking about it, so goodness knows how a young woman like Amy copes with constant trolling. It’s a daily reality for many people, particularly young people, which I think is horrific. For those hounded by online bullies, Monday’s incident, and the subsequent strain on Twitter, must have offered brief respite.

Being forced to step off social media platforms, as we were this week, is a reminder that a duty of care should be at the heart of the Online Safety Bill.