Mother Nature Attacks, Social Media Assists!

Filed in Guest Post , Journalism , Twitter 17 comments

Revolutions, earthquakes, and tsunamis: What do they have in common?

Answer: Social media

“What fascinated most Social Media analysts was the speed at which information traveled all over the world regarding the earthquake.”

Is it a coincidence , or simply the New Normal, that typically hot journalistic topics like violence and devastation are now being reported most effectively through Social Media rather than Traditional Media — at the same time that 33 Laney College students are actively participating in my online course Social Media for Journalists.

Our Facebook Group discussions are lively and revealing like the one evolving around the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that lead to this student’s coverage of the events and their reporting.

Mother Nature Attacks, Social Media Assists!

Guest Post by Champa Mulchandani

Mother Nature is seriously upset. And to show us the extent of her unhappiness, she decided to throw an earthquake at Japan. You know she means business when it’s an 8.9 magnitude earthquake which is soon followed by a massive tsunami. If the earthquake hit any other country in the world, this situation would have been a horrendous one.

However, because Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries whose architecture and infrastructure is designed with earthquakes in mind, the earthquake was unable to cause heaps of destruction.

But no matter how large a catastrophe, Social Media never fails to assist and connect. Phone lines may come crashing down, but Facebook and Twitter will be up and rollicking waiting to be used. And so it did. While reporting and giving viewers the most up to date news from north east Japan, they insisted on family and friends from around the world on utilizing all forms of Social Media to stay in touch with people in the earthquake hit Japan.

Japan hashtags trending

In the last 24 hours, the hash tags #Japan, #earthquake, #tsunami and #prayforjapan have been trending and how. CNN went on to display a number of tweets from all over the world where people explained their feelings towards the earthquake. While locals in Japan tweeted about how their homes swayed, how they were scared and how they were looking for family in parts of Japan where communication was down, people in Chile, were getting ready to be hit by the tsunami waves and thus, were expressing their fears. These chilling firsthand accounts not only gave the media an insight into how Social Media has not only become a source for news, but a diary even where users are able to convey their experiences.

But when it comes to Social Media assisting and informing people of the earthquake, it was Twitter all the way. Most avid Tweeters received news of the earthquake via Twitter. And then realizing that there was no way of communicating with people in Japan any other way but through Twitter, Facebook and Skype. But Twitter didn’t just come in handy for people abroad; local Japanese citizens flocked to Twitter for aid and information. Non-Japanese speakers residing in Japan were all over Twitter looking up alerts, altered train schedules and even places for shelter.

What fascinated most Social Media analysts was the speed at which information traveled all over the world regarding the earthquake. Tweeters, in and out of Japan, rapidly updated timelines; eyewitnesses used YouTube and uploaded videos by the minute of any visuals they had while Facebook pages were put up by the dozen asking for aid, funds and relief much before even the Red Cross could get on board to call on the world for help.

Google too, quickly gathered resources and launched their People Finder site for Japan as soon as the earthquake hit. And it seriously does rock – not as much as the earthquake though, thankfully. Presented with two options, to look or provide information, users can fill in necessary information regarding people they may be looking for. This information is added into a public registry which allows people to search for missing loved ones. Google clearly moved quickly with their site as it is not only available in English and Chinese, but in Japanese too.

Traditional media relies on social media

Ultimately, what Social Media did for the Japan earthquake was provide information so quickly that even news channels sought their help. This would explain why CNN promoted the use of Social Media and encouraged citizens of the world to hop on the Social Media bandwagon. What this ultimately tells us, as Social Media journalism students is simple: the power of Social Media cannot be underestimated and more importantly, besides connecting, it comes in handy during any or all catastrophes. We’ve seen how Social Media has created revolutions in the world. Today we witnessed Social Media come in a totally different dimension. It didn’t just allow people to stay in touch despite an earthquake and tsunami, but it also allowed us to stay informed.

Sadly, Social Media will not be able to save or protect citizens who are in harm’s way. Nor will be ever be able to predict and prevent earthquakes from occurring. But it certainly can assist when Mother Nature goes rather into frenzy with us.

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with Japan. We’re sure they will come through it all stronger and more resilient.


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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   12 March 2011
Tags : , , , , , ,
Mar 12, 2011
1:48 pm
#1 Randy :

Changing the way we get our news. Directly from the source without a corporate agenda

Mar 13, 2011
3:35 am

I agree with Randy here.. A long time ago we were just “enslaved” by what corporate media “feeds” us. now we have a way to get all information out! information censorship will be a thing of the past.

Mar 17, 2011
8:14 am

Hi Shari,
Social media became a very effective way to spread any content,news,events and many more.Using the tremendous power of internet any event from Japan or USA can reach Europe in a matter of seconds.
Is true,we can’t predict an earthquake but we have the ability to take immediate mesures that can shared through social media worldwide.
Thanks for sharing this!

Mar 17, 2011
8:18 am
#4 Lesly Federici :

Well, the good news is – information is coming from the people, not the media which has a strong tendency to “spin” the truth. What’s happening in Japan is affecting all of us on some level… My heart is with them…

Author Mar 17, 2011
4:42 pm

Lesly, you are SO correct. The more grassroots info we get, the more we really know what is going on and how we can help.

Mar 17, 2011
8:51 pm

Cheers to social media! It plays a great role in connecting people.

The Internet is our only means of communicating with our loved ones in Japan when telephone companies and other agencies were shut down. It eases the pain we felt upon seeing our relatives safe and ok. Without the Internet we would not be aware of what’s the real thing and the crisis Japan is now facing.

Mar 18, 2011
3:13 am
#7 Billy Rivera :

Great work, Champa, and you wrote this on the fly last Friday in a couple hours; very impressive!!

I have a ton of close friends in Toyko, and if it wasn’t for Facebook, I probably still wouldn’t have heard from them to know that they are ok. My mom, who works for the chairman of Toyota, called me right after the earthquake so I could assist her in gathering information, via the blogs, while she assisted her co-works, many who lost loved ones after the tsunami hit. I immediately created a Twitter account for her (never in a million years did I think my mom would be on Twitter), gave her the tools to keep up with all the hashtags, and sent her down social media lane.

Mar 18, 2011
9:17 am

Thanks for having Champa Mulchandani share her great post with us here. What a great idea you had!

We are saddened by all the deaths and injuries in Japan, but we are also very proud of the part that social media played as a communication tool with the news coming from the people involved rather than from the news media. It is amazing what technology can do and it’s wonderful that Japan is so well advanced in technology and especially in earthquake-ready architecture.

The future of social media is stronger and more solid than ever. Let’s continue to use it to help others and to build relationships.

Dawn and (Dave)

Mar 21, 2011
10:15 pm


Cool idea… reporting on how social media has helped to connect so many people with loved ones and useful information to help them get through the disaster.

Champa did a fabulous job on the post… informative and interesting.

~ Pat & Lorna

Author Mar 22, 2011
12:25 am
#10 Shari Weiss :

Teaching my college students Social Media for Journalists is an awesome “job” — one that reminds me of Margaret Mead’s philosophy that Work should be Play, and Play should be Work.

Mar 31, 2011
10:41 pm
#11 Adrian Campbell :

This article is so true, the way that we all will get information is not how our parents got information. Social Media has changed the way that we communicate and opened many doors for communication. This is proving to be very helpful when our friends over in other parts of the world are in need.

Apr 6, 2011
3:28 am
#12 Emma :

Ah, this is the true beauty of social media… the real purpose… to connect.

The reason I first started my facebook account was to connect with my friends all over the world that I had met whilst traveling. Then, as friend requests came from people I had never met, I saw another side… a pulse of the world.

We are incredibly fortunate to be able to reach the hearts and minds of so many. It brings us together.

Emma 🙂

Author Apr 6, 2011
7:28 pm
#13 Shari Weiss :

Emma, I’m with you. I just heard someone on the radio asking is America is ascending or failing. My take is that social media and the lesson it teaches us will help us all get better individually and as communities and as nations.

Apr 27, 2011
1:17 pm
#14 Shivam Garg :

Hi Shari,
Very rightly said.This is the best utilization of technology apart from medical applications.I feel Social media has shortened the distances between people.Now help can reach more faster at needed places.

Apr 28, 2011
10:52 am

Hi Shari,

I find this post to be very timely. Because, just this morning, after watching the news, they were showing the devastiton that occurred overnight, from the many tornadoes that hit the southern portion of the USA, in States like Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and a few other major cities.

These Cities have suffered major loss of life and property.

Looking at all the davastation, I was thinking about how many businesses were now lost, and how many people would now not only be with out homes, but they would likely be without a job also.

However, with Internet access and Internet Marketing and social media, a person could still have a potential means to generate and pursue ways to make an income.

The Internet and social media has opened up doors, and allows us to connect like never before in history.

That’s just my 2 cents worth,

Great post.



Author Apr 30, 2011
1:33 am
#16 Shari Weiss :

Willy, the Internet helps us communicate in ways . . . that have fueled unrest, in addition all the positive benefits. IMHO, the transparency and openness will help us create a better society.

Oct 17, 2011
11:35 am

Messages have never been so easy to send and receive, and people have never been so close as they are now with the expansion of the social media.

Trends in the global society and the ways of communication have never changed so fast. We may like it or not, but it’s a fact!

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