Monday, March 14, 2011

Social Media and natural disasters in Japan

As soon as I found out about the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami following I hopped on to Twitter to see if there were ways to help and if Japan was trending there. I hopped on Facebook as well, but no one in my circles had even mentioned it. All the posts I was seeing on Twitter and Facebook were as if nothing had happened in Japan. True, the number casualties wasn't known at the time, but from the videos on news sites it was clear this was devastating to at least the coastal towns. Now that the number of missing persons has risen to over 10,000 maybe it's sinking in?

There were other Twitter posts of a very disturbing nature on Twitter related to the earthquake in Japan, I couldn't believe what I was reading. Fortunately it is an ignorant few who ranted this nonsense and they were met with a torrent of response from the sane masses, but still hearing that voice and having it associated with the US was just sickening.

The whole situation with social media in the face of tragedy kind of bothered me, I posted a quick tweet vowing 10 minutes of silence for Japan after retweeting all the related news stories I could find to more people aware of the situation. Meanwhile everyone I follow with the exception of a a few news sources and the folks at Mashable seem to just continue on with the normal Monday routine. There were some exceptions, people checking on friends and family in California after hearing that tsunami warnings were in effect. Oddly enough the tsunami did make it all the way across the Pacific and did do some damage in Northern California!

What I really found disturbing was fairly big social media players like @ChrisBrogan who has over 170,000 followers and has tweeted over 82,000 times had absolutely nothing to say about the situation in Japan. His tweets were related to Delta flight delays more than anything else that day. Not to pick on Chris, there were definitely many others, and I just saddened because one the great uses I believe of social media is to generate fast acting response in a crisis that could make a difference in people's lives. On March 11th it really seemed like the narcissism, that is growing in part to social media channels, was really evident and definitely sad.

Fortunately the American Red Cross jumped right in and promoted the conversation #HelpJapan and set up a relief fund that you could donate $10 to the cause by texting the words REDCROSS to 90999. I sent my text got an auto response to confirm my $10 donation being charged to my cell phone bill by replying with a YES and then got a confirmation that my donation was accepted. Now that is an effective and rewarding use of social media and technology. I'm proud that the American Red Cross is doing their part and as always have a very rapid response to disasters, now I just have to donate to my local Red Cross chapter so that when my town is hit with a disaster they will be prepared to help me too.

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