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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Use of Social Media in Natural Disasters

Isn’t it amazing how fast a simple comment or picture can go viral via Twitter, Facebook, or other means of social media? The growth of these media over the past decade has been immense. Let’s take a look at how the use of social media has changed in the United States over the past seven years in regards to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August of 2005. At this time, social media was only on the brink of explosion, meaning it was at the forefront of communication efforts for neither the media nor the public. At this time, however, the term “citizen journalists” was beginning to become more apparent as there was a rise in blogging and wikis.

While these blogs and wikis allowed for the public to have their own experiences more accessible to the public, they did not have the same immediate effect on the large audience that social media does today.

What if today’s social media had been prevalent in the lives of Katrina victims at the time of the hurricane? Would this have led to more useful relief efforts? A post by Marc Meyer on Social Media Today, Social Media and Hurricane Katrina: What If? discusses how the social media sphere of the present may or may not have led to better disaster relief efforts.

Hurricane Sandy (October 2012):
Hurricane Sandy is the most recent hurricane disaster to touch down in the United States, having happened in the last week of October 2012. Today, contrary to 2005, social media is more relevant than it ever has been.

This is beneficial to disaster relief in many ways, most prevalently in how accessible information is to hurricane victims. In today’s social media realm, disaster relief comes immediately and accessibly, with people like President Barack Obama posting link to where the public can assist in relief efforts. 

In addition to the relief efforts, the public today is getting a much better and more personable perspective to the affects and happenings surrounding the hurricane. Citizen journalists post about their own accounts of the hurricane on Twitter and Facebook, and are able to post videos and photos through media such as YouTube and Instagram.

There are even some jokes being made about Hurricane Sandy that have gone viral. One of the most recent jokes has been a comparison of the hurricane to the popular SpongeBob SquarePants character, Sandy the squirrel.

So there you have it. Social media is evolving. We live in an age where information is not only becoming more accessible, but it is becoming accessible from many different outlets. Watch out for more; It’s not stopping here!