How social media can be useful beyond connecting with people

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There was a time before social media, when you had one of two ways to get updates during disasters:  TV and Radio.

Social media has exploded – it is no longer limited to personal connectivity through Facebook, professional networking through LinkedIn, or microblogging through Twitter.

Using Twitter and Facebook, I have stayed updated with information from the following sources:

  • The Massachusetts Emergency Management Authority
  • SELCO (the utility provider in my town)
  • The police departments from my town and a few others.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Authority
  • Governor Patrick in Massachusetts
  • Governor Cuomo in New York
  • Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey
  • Mayor Bloombery in New York City

Now, I live in Massachusetts, so one would wonder why I would connect with NY and NJ sources.

My question is, why not?

It literally costs you nothing to follow the updates.

It’s also a form of transparency.  Governors of states and mayors of cities are now on the internet, with all that information being pushed to it.

You’d also be surprised at the topics of conversation that can come out of conversations after a natural disaster.  With social media and the way it has evolved, you can learn much more than you ever could from watching TV or listening to the radio.

Social media also plays another role:  There is a human that is broadcasting these updates.  If you add up all the feedback from different people (be it complaints or compliments), you can get a sense of the danger people are facing, while also finding out where crews need to be working. It also serves as a way for people in disaster areas to reach out; mobile devices are capable of geotagging what you post.  The worker on the other side of that tweet, post, or comment, might be able to narrow down your phone’s location (or even your last known location).

Social media also becomes very useful if you need to communicate during a natural disaster that you’re okay.  One post or tweet could reach hundreds of people, who then let other people know; you could literally use a Tweet to inform your entire family that you are not in harm’s way.  Conversely, you could be on the other side of town without cell service, and you could post a message to Facebook asking someone to call for help for you, since you might be unable.

Not that a natural disaster was involved, but when I traveled to Wisconsin back in August, I used social media to create a digital path as to where I was.  Sure, I could have done the same thing with a phone and potentially email, but if there were a problem, it would be possible to see where I was, what I was doing, and how long ago I was doing it.

Am I assuming that any of the information shown would be used by anybody, in times of crisis?  The information is voluntarily out there in case it needs to be used.  Some information is better than no information.  When you’re in a mode of survival or trying to assist, you’d be surprised what information will be useful to what people.

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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.