Friday morning we all awoke to news of a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake, followed by a 10-foot tsunami, hitting the coast of Japan. News, happening halfway around the world, was made instantaneously available at our fingertips through smart phones, laptops, televisions, tablets, and e-readers.
In 2009, I had the privilege to travel to Japan with a group of aspiring journalists and my experience was nothing short of amazing. The food, the sites, and the hospitality were all remarkable but it was the people we had the opportunity to meet that will forever stand out in my mind. While our journey has long since ended, those relationships have not thanks to social networks like Facebook – the same site that is now being described as a “lifeline” following the quake’s aftermath.
Computerworld reported that “with so many people unable to physically get to family and friends or to even reach them on the phone, countless people in Japan and around the world took to Twitter and Facebook to reach out to loved ones today.” On Friday, I myself frequently visited Facebook as a means for an update coming one from woman in particular whom I met on my trip and was grateful to see a post stating her and her family were well.
According to Computerworld, one hour after the quake “Online Social Media, which tracks social media services, reported that Twitter was experiencing 1,200 tweets posted every minute. And at most times [on Friday], eight or nine of Twitter’s top 10 Trending Tropics — such as #prayforjapan, #tsunami and #japan — were directly related to the earthquake and tsunami.”
But it wasn’t just Facebook and Twitter that played a role in the response to the earthquake. Google’s Crisis Response team launched a Japanese and English language Person Finder app to assist families looking for missing loved ones. Other efforts involved BusinessWire and PRNewswire waiving fees on press releases with news of aid and rescue efforts related to the earthquake.
These social media “lifelines” that awaken after a tragedy, allow us not only to act as a global community, but remind us of the power of connectivity and how everyday social media platforms can be executed for the greater good.