A large number of websites are predominantly text content: articles, documents, posts, and various types of written content. Often pictures are included, but the page content is not very dense. Think of news websites or blogs.
Websites with videos and animated or changing advertising are more intensive. Your browser and computer must work harder to move through such content.
Sites that dynamically deliver a mix of content, such as Facebook, are the most demanding websites. They are like programs running on your computer through the browser.
You may sometimes get a notification on your computer stating that a particular program is using a lot of system resources. This can happen if a browser has too many tabs open.
You may get an error while visiting websites if the browser gets too overwhelmed with content.
This document describes why this can happen and what to do about it.
Facebook “Something Went Wrong” Error
For the reasons explained in the summary above, you may occasionally notice a “Something Went Wrong” error while using the Facebook app or website. An example is below.
Facebook Security and Stability Protections
It’s very likely that the error shown above is a protective measure implemented by Facebook to prevent ‘runaway’ sessions.
Let’s say someone inadvertently sets down a book, and it’s resting on their keyboard while their browser is on the Facebook news feed page. If a book or a cat is pressing down on the spacebar (this has been known to happen) then Facebook will be burdened with sending your computer an unending stream of news in your newsfeed scrolling and going back for many weeks or months in just a few minutes.
In addition to books, and cats, and enthusiastic users overwhelming Facebook news feeds, there are also malicious attacks on Facebook and other websites. These are called Denial of Service Attacks.
There are a few mechanisms in place to prevent these problems.
You may have noticed when you scroll down quickly through your Facebook newsfeed, at some point the scrolling will stop, and instead of news stories or pictures you may see gray boxes. This may be your system catching up, but it may also be Facebook pausing to conserve on data bandwidth.
If Facebook perceives a problem, you may end up getting gray boxes or the error message shown above.
It’s reasonable to believe that Facebook may limit the bandwidth (the amount of data) available to certain users if those users are perceived to be ‘power users’ of the Facebook services.
This would be for the same reason that your cell phone company has speed limiting. If certain people seem to be consuming too much media, it uses up excessive resources. This collectively costs companies a lot of money. The person who gets on Facebook for a few minutes a day, and slowly scrolls through the feed, occasionally tapping on a story to read it or slowing down to read a post is not considered to be a problem. Someone who spends a lot of time on Facebook, may reach a soft limit on their use, at which point Facebook might throttle the use or speed.
The same types of limits are implemented by Facebook and Twitter if your activity is perceived to be spam or robotic. If you are liking lots of posts, posting repeatedly, or making lots of friend requests, Facebook may perceive the behavior as outside the normal parameters. An automated message from Facebook may state, “We’ve noticed unusual behavior on your account” and you’ll be limited from certain activities for a while.
Another example of automated restrictions can be found with YouTube. If you have a video playing on YouTube and get called away from the computer, your session may be in Auto Play mode. This causes YouTube to play the next related video suggested for you to watch. This will keep happening. These videos will show up in your YouTube history, and probably cause some confusion when you see a list of videos have played, but you don’t recall ever watching them. YouTube now has a system in place so that an unattended computer will have a notification stating: “Are you still watching?” If there is no response, then the Auto Play feature is paused.
All of these examples are to illustrate the ways in which systems will try to prevent excessive use.
Sometimes it isn’t the service provider limiting your experience. It may be your browser limiting a session that seems to be using up excessive system resources.
If you get an error on a website, or a stuck newsfeed with empty boxes, your browser may be having trouble processing all the media on a site.
Either through an intentional limiter or a general system limitation, these errors can happen.
The Auto Mechanic Phenomenon and IP Addresses
There’s a story often told about how someone is having trouble with their car making an odd noise. They take the car to their auto mechanic and the noise is gone and they can’t seem to reproduce the error.
If you’ve been having trouble with repeatedly getting the “Something Went Wrong” error on Facebook, you might end up going to a tech support person to get help.
You will pull out your smartphone, and say to the technician, “Let me show you the problem. It happens all the time.” But no matter how much you scroll down the Facebook newsfeed, 20 minutes later, the error message still won’t show up. You’ll exclaim, “I don’t understand why the error isn’t showing up. It always shows up for me when I’m at home.”
As described in the section above, Facebook and other websites have protective security and performance measures in place. Those types of controls and protections are usually IP-based. The IP number you have is issued by your Internet service provider. It uniquely identifies you and your household or business network. The IP address is significant because there may be hackers at a certain IP address or infected computers at a certain IP address. Website owners monitor activity and can block or limit people based on IP addresses.
The reason you might not get the Facebook “Something Went Wrong” error at a different location, even when logged into your same Facebook account, is because it’s likely Facebook has implemented some IP-based protective measures. When you access Facebook from a different IP address than usual, you are starting over again without being limited.
Facebook Power Usage
As mentioned above, Facebook is a very complex and power intensive website that runs like a computer program in your browser. If you are on an Apple computer, and go to the Activity Monitor, under the Energy tab you can see that the Facebook website can use an excessive amount of energy as shown in the example below.
Computer Power Management
Some computers may attempt to control energy use at the application level. This is done for the following reasons:
- REDUCE HEAT. When intensive tasks run and use up excess energy, this can cause heat that damages computer components and causes fans to have excessive use.
- IMPROVE PERFORMANCE. Runaway tasks on a computer can impede performance. A program that is in an endless loop or a website that has encountered a problem such as a script error on the page can cause the computer to block the process.
- IMPROVE BATTERY RUNTIME. When batteries get too hot, it shortens runtime. Also, tasks using a lot of power will shorten runtime. This is a problem for smartphones and laptop computers.
- EXTEND BATTERY LIFE. When batteries get too hot, it can damage them and shorten their life. They may need to be replaced sooner than otherwise is typical. Also, when tasks like Facebook use a lot of energy, this can cause batteries to run out and need more frequent charging. This can result in your smartphone or laptop computer needing to be serviced to have the battery replaced.
- PROTECT HARDWARE. As mentioned above, excessive heat can harm computers and mobile devices.
- PROTECT THE PLANET. Excess power usage can be a waste of energy. This is a concern for those who are mindful of our impact on the planet.
- SAVE MONEY. All of the above issues result in higher electric bills and costly repairs.
For all of these reasons, it’s a good idea to limit time spent using power intensive programs and services.
Addressing The Above Problems
Here are some ways you can address the problems described above:
- LIMIT USE. If we can reduce our use of social media, it will help prevent systems being overwhelmed. Some devices will provide you with a report showing your use of certain services. If you see you are spending too many hours a week on social media you can try to cut back.
- DEDICATED BROWSER. Consider having a dedicated browser, like Firefox, for use exclusively with Facebook. If you use other services like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest you could have these run in Firefox also.
- CLEAR WEBSITE DATA. One reason for having a dedicated browser used with social media is to ensure that you can easily clear the website data frequently for these types of sites that are media intensive. This is described below.
Firefox — Clearing Website Data
Follow the steps below to clear your website data. This could be done daily, or after every hour of intensive Facebook use. Adjust the frequency so that you are clearing website data frequently enough to avoid having errors and content problems, but not so frequently that it’s a burdensome task.
STEP #1 — Open Firefox as shown below.
STEP #2 — Select the menu by pressing the three horizontal bars in the top right corner as shown below.
STEP #3 — You will see the General preferences page as shown below.
STEP #4 — From the left column, select the Privacy & Security option. On the Privacy & Security page, scroll down until you see the Cookies and Site Data section shown below.
STEP #5 — The Manage Cookies and Site Data window should open as shown below. You will have an opportunity to search for specific websites. Type in Facebook as shown in the example below.
STEP #6 — Click on the Facebook.com website in the list to select it, and then click the Remove Selected button as shown below.
STEP #7 — Click on Save Changes and the close and restart Firefox to have a fresh new start.
Hopefully the suggestions above will improve the speed and stability of your web browsing on social media sites.
Keep in mind that social media sites will still be very demanding on your computer. A faster computer can help.
If the service provider, such as Facebook, has slightly limited your access to content based on your IP address, then it won’t matter what browser you use. You may even see errors and issues on other devices.
The issues may only impact your user account when used from your primary IP address. So, someone else at your home or business might not have problems with their Facebook account. Only you would have trouble.