We have been talking more and more lately about the power of social media as a means to connect and inform. Lately, social media has taken on a life of its own that has some of use wondering how we managed to live without it for so long. It’s almost like that magnitude of the invention of the cellular phone only about 10 times bigger. This is an entirely new plain. Social media has bridged gaps that we didn’t realize existed and has connected us to those we’d otherwise never have a means of reaching. It has been the ultimate evolutionary (and in many cases revolutionary) tool of our generation and it continues to expand far beyond our imagination every day.
We notice these things, of course. We notice that in our everyday lives we look for these social networks to keep us connected to friends, family and strangers informing us of everyday happenings and life developments. However, it is when social media goes far beyond idle “catch-ups” and actually assist in rebuilding countries, relationships, and essentially the world that we realize its importance and vitality to the human race.
Let’s take, for instance, the role of social media in reconnecting victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Tragedy struck in Japan last week causing a heartache and concern that resonated throughout the world. Some of us have no loved ones in Japan and have likely never even visited the country yet we all mourned together like countrymen. We wanted to know that the misplaced were found and that pieces of life could be put back together. We were eager to hear word, anything, from anyone affected just to ease the pending anxiety surrounding the disaster. Many took to Twitter and sought out Japanese tweeters for a firsthand account of the state of the country (translated in most instances, of course).
There was a message sent Friday from the U.S Embassy in Tokyo to United States citizens in Japan that encouraged Americans “to continue your efforts to be in contact with your loved one(s) using SMS texting and other social media (e.g., FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) that your loved one(s) may use.” Miraculously, Japan’s internet was largely intact after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake. This has allowed for online services to play a vital role in connecting victims and those concerned with family and friends.
Not only has social media connected Americans and others to those and Japan, many users have stated that these mediums were much faster and easier that the Red Cross and phone lines. People in Japan were posting to their social media accounts as soon as an hour after the quake with the number of tweets from Tokyo topping 1,200 per minute according to Tweet-o-Meter. Many of these tweets offered a necessary ease to those who waited eagerly on the edge of their seats for word from the disaster areas.
Had it not been for social media where would we be? What would we know? What wouldn’t we know (an even better question)? To even consider the possibility is mind-boggling.