SOCIAL NETWORKING IN TIMES OF DISASTER
Tue, 2011-06-07 12:51 — admin
SOCIAL NETWORKING IN TIMES OF DISASTER
During the time of the Japan earthquake and tsunami crisis, Facebook and Twitter brought a sense of immediacy and intimacy to news updates, found Yeevon Ong
You heard of the earth opening up on itself in Japan as massive waves of water swept in from the horizon. You had loved ones somewhere in the land of the rising sun. You could not wait for Google 'Person Finder' or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) FamilyLinks' list of missing names to locate them because that would take too long. It would take even longer if you were to contact the thousands of refuge locations in Japan that Google 'pinned' up on its Maps. By then, you would have been driven insane by anxiety.
But wait, you receive a tweet from one saying they are safe. And then another with exclamation marks telling you on Facebook how they survived the tumbling walls. And another...
As BBC and CNN news online reports came in, video footage of buildings lying in a heap of debris were already up on Youtube, garnering thousands of views before you could even keep up. These 'latest news' were almost old because newer reports were constantly being updated.
While the public scrambled to access news websites failing to load because of overwhelming response, major social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter were buzzing non-stop with updates. Their unfailing immediacy and urgency administered to netizens worldwide demanding for more reports on the aftermath. Throngs of Facebook and Twitter users 'Liked' and supported pages set up to provide latest updates on the disaster.
Facebook users were constantly posting about the outcome of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that spread across the Pacific Ocean. On the day of the earthquake itself, the general rate of postings peaked at dozens per second. They were swapping news articles, photos and video footage. They were also constantly shouting out to request for support and help while countless expressed condolences and prayers to the Japanese.
Global Disaster Relief on Facebook posted 10 graphs showing how news of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake spread on the social network via status updates. The series of images exhibited about 4.5 million states updates from 3.8 million users on Facebook, relating to “Japan”, “earthquake”, and “tsunami” as a function of time. There were frequent status updates providing information about the catastrophe as well as the situation as well as the welfare of family and friends in the country. Users logged on to check on their loved ones' Facebook profiles hoping to be assured of their safety.
The 'Causes' page on Facebook which has over 18 million of monthly active users were going on a roll asking people on Facebook to contribute to the Red Cross or Save the Children to help victims and survivors in Japan, stating fundraising goals.
According to the Tweet-o-Meter meanwhile, less than an hour after the quake, with the country's telephone system blown, the number of tweets coming from Tokyo only were topping 1,200 per minute. Tweet-o-Meter, developed by CASA, University College London to measure and visualise the amount of tweets sent around different cities, can only monitor outgoing tweets of countries if users have their geolocation turned on. So really, I would not be surprised if the meter had missed thousands more tweets from Tokyo that day.
Heck, even the Prime Minister’s Office in Japan is now using Twitter to provide latest information to everyone locally and internationally. Japanese television, radio and internet services provider NHK reported that Twitter was used as one of the tools to find the survivors evacuated to relief centres.
Celebrities all around the world tweeted about their thoughts on and causes for the Japanese. Famed socialite Khloe Kardashian expressed her sympathy and love to the people of Japan while sister Kim urged fans to donate to Japan's relief fund. Nicole Scherzinger of the dance-pop girl group Pussycat Dolls, tweeted gravely, “My heart goes out to all those affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Pls keep Japan in ur prayers. God bless and be with them.”
Quite contrary to the stigma of promoting idleness, social networking sites have in this situation risen to the occasion and proven themselves worthy of anybody’s time. For many, Facebook and Twitter were a major source of information for the tragedy and its devastating outcome. In a time of need such as this, they not only brought the world together in the midst of tumult but offered support and comfort.