When the earthquake hit last month, I was sitting in my office, completely absorbed in some technical issue, when my phone rang.
This was the first I’d heard of the supposedly massive earthquake in Christchurch, and to be honest, I didn’t take it that seriously… As individuals, we have a tendency to panic, to upgrade emergencies for the sheer excitement of it.
So even before the news hit the wires, I took a quick, mildly skeptical look at Twitter and, what I saw, disturbed me more than anything I’ve seen since then.
The stories of people who had literally just come out from other rubble, or those who saw their building fall had me shaking. Looking for security, I rang dad to get reassurance that an entire city in our country had not just crumbled, that claims of certain death were much exaggerated.
He was far calmer. The true extent of the tragedy, while become increasingly clear on Twitter and Facebook, hadn’t reached the airwaves yet. He said not to worry, the news was reporting a much smaller disaster.
It’s a sign of the times, that what used to be our sole source of information, is now the last to come to the party. We no longer have the luxury of well written, calm journalistic articles on tragedies, we witness them in the panicked moments straight after, from the perspectives of the traumatised people right in the middle of them.
In the minutes, hours and days following…
When phones were down, and people were terrified, we took to Facebook as a nation.
Suddenly, these trivial social tools, became vital lines to the people we cared about. Between us, we could pass on news, keep each other informed and share vital messages about water, sewerage, and what to do if you are trapped, talking to someone, and starting to run out of phone batteries.
When people needed information, food, or help, their message was spread far and wide. Facebook and Twitter connected people in a way everything else has never been able to achieve.
I get Social Media plays a huge role in marketing, I get that it’s the way forward, but am not always impressed with how dumb it all seems – the silly games, the trivia, that sort of thing… But never before have I realised the true extent of how these tools are changing our lives.