Commentary

Japan, Tragedy and Twitter: The Most Useful Crisis Tool Avaliable for free

  • by , March 15, 2011

The recent earthquake and tsunami which has recently hit Japan is the scenario of nightmares. Something that one would never expect to happen, much less be forced to face reality and see the horrible destruction, loss of life and future damaging possibilities for the country and the world.

As horrible an event which took place, the ability to stay updated to the situation and be aware of how it develops is important not only to the citizens of Japan but the rest of the world as well. Sure there are your normal news outlets and websites covering the major stories as they develop, but they can only say so much, in a certain period of time. What if your friends or family were over there? You wouldn’t want to wait for Anderson Cooper to deliver the news; you’d want to know as soon as possible.

Twitter, the social media app which is most often associated with letting people know all the little moments in your life that most probably could care less about, has been one of the most powerful tools in communicating developing news updates, vital information, and a platform of communication for those wanting to retweet information or communicate with others to receive more information. I was on Twitter as the quake had begun, watched as people playfully tweeted that “It’s going to be a long day”, to sheer terror as tweet began reporting that the quakes didn’t stop.

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The first notice of a tsunami warning was retweeted by thousands as it made its way to Twitter, after the tsunami hit, reports began to flood in from Japanese news agencies and people living in the affect areas, all this was before any major news networks began to report the situation.

As the tsunami subsided, the aftershocks began to roll in, websites for aid and assistance in finding shelter, medical assistance, and locating people began being tweeted. The Red Cross had begun setting up donations that could be sent from a simple text or link.

When the power plants began to deteriorate, the NHK news was linked to on twitter, which then linked to a live uStream broadcast in both English and Japanese where updates came much quicker than other news sources reported it.
Train schedules were updated on the fly, press conferences were translated on the fly, and people were updated with necessary information when speed and accuracy was everything. Even when reports were shown to be inaccurate, alarmist, or just wrong, there was always a person to correct these issues, along with a link to provide evidence.

The world through news networks and the internet has been able to follow the Japan disaster, but Twitter has truly provided a way for those concerned to stay involved and updated in a way that not possible short of being there. To put it in perspective, the 1994 Kobe earthquake in Japan happened in a time when cell phones were not even widely used like they are today, let alone a social application which could bring up to date information as it happened.

People are too often quick to dismiss Twitter as a fad. Something for people bored of Facebook or attention starved net users. I have witnessed its usefulness first hand, and seen just how useful and just how much of a difference it could make during a crisis.

1 comment about "Japan, Tragedy and Twitter: The Most Useful Crisis Tool Avaliable for free".
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  1. Austin Hostetter from Ball State University, March 19, 2011 at 8:06 p.m.

    For the first time ever, I turned to Twitter before any other media outlet to find out what was happening in Libya. Using a "current events" list that fed all of the news sources I follow into one stream as well as trending topics, I was able to see real time results rather than waiting for an anchor to tell me. It's a fact: Twitter is much more than a fad.

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