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By Margaret Yekulis • @myekulis
In the past, when tragedy would strike, people would make phone calls to one another to find out what was going on. If the tragedy was national or global, people would be glued to their TV’s to find out the latest on what was happening. But that was then, and we now live in a new era when giving and receiving information happens in an instant.
Today, we have social media to help us engage with one another in times of crisis. The most recent tragedy in Japan is a clear example of this. Right away, people started tweeting about what was going on. As the earthquake was happening, people were filming the entire thing, uploading their videos on YouTube so people outside of Japan could see what would happen. These “citizen journalists," as they’re typically called, give people outside of the situation not only a first-person look at what’s happening, but the emotion surrounding it as well.
While not many would think to turn to an outlet like Twitter in an event like this, many didn’t think twice about it. Because phone service was knocked out in many areas, people turned to Twitter at a rate of 1,200 tweets or more per minute. According to Mashable, they were even able to estimate the time it would hit Hawaii before U.S. Government officials sent a warning to the island. In the days following the events, Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office created an official Twitter feed, both in Japanese and English. And Twitter wasn’t the only service people turned to. Many sent updates through Facebook, a more widely used social network, to let their friends and family know they were ok. An old friend of mine from high school was in Hawaii at the time visiting her sister. She was able to let all of her friends and family know through Facebook where they were headed for safety, and when they arrived back at her sisters’ apartment. Using these services has become quite a relief in the days following and during the tragic events for people worldwide.
Back in Japan, Google has set up a service for people to help each other out. You can list the name of a person that you’re looking to get information for, or if you know of someone that’s safe, add their information for their family to find. Even daily deal companies, such as Living Social, are doing their part, offering to double donations of $5 or more through the American Red Cross to help out Japan.
You can’t talk major world events without the recent (and current) happenings in the Middle East. The protests in Egypt may have started on January 25, but it was #jan25 that got it all started on Twitter. Hashtags are used in Twitter as a way of communicating with others about a common event or topic. Many hashtags were used throughout Tunisia, prior to the demonstrations in Egypt. This allowed those in Egypt to follow what was going on despite lack of media coverage, and inspired their country. The first tweet with #jan25 was of course sent out on that date by @alya1989262, a 21 year old Egyptian student.
Twitter and Facebook aren’t just there for global tragic events, but can also help local and individual cases as well. Think about what you see in your Facebook feed on a daily basis. Someone asking where the best restaurant is or what you think of a new movie. But what if you saw someone asking
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