While Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, Twitter and Facebook trends quickly started piling up. The most popular hashtag, #Sandy became as important as major media outlets. People around the world could practically track Sandy as it moved up the East Coast just by following the conversations with the hashtag. What soon became abundantly clear, though, was not only people’s naivety but the level at which things in social media may go viral when they are blatantly wrong.
Photos, like the one above, were tweeted, retweeted, blogged about and shared on Facebook, spreading across social media like wildfire. People were either so awed by these photos, or hurried, that they never bothered to check their validity. While impressive, and almost believable, the photo above was actually a movie still. Those that knew this either kindly pointed it out or, for some, resorted to name calling over Twitter when they saw it being erroneously Tweeted. Others, still, continued the retweets.
Also, during the thick of the Sandy crisis, were the many Jersey Shore, Kardashian, Snooki comments. While the posters and the Tweeters may have found them funny, I found them offensive, not so much to me or to the Kardashians or even Snooki (who cares?), but for the people in Sandy’s path both experiencing and awaiting her wrath. This storm was brutal, killing more than 30 people in the United States and another five DOZEN people in the Caribbean, displacing thousands and leaving millions without power and jeopardizing their safety. Was this really the time to make jokes? I think not. The political and economic impacts of this storm alone are enough to cause widespread terror.
How Social Media helped during Sandy? People all along the East Coast were Tweeting and posting on Facebook about their current situations. Family members were able to follow them to keep an eye on their safety. Utility companies were able to engage with their customers to learn of power outages when phone lines were impenetrable. Tips for keeping cell phone batteries were tweeted and shared and users were able to remain connected to the rest of the world even when their power, phones and internet sources were shut down. The President and State Governors were able to Tweet warnings to constituents, give direction and keep people constantly connected before, during and after the storm hit.
Social Media keeps us all connected, engaged, informed. I would strongly urge its users to verify information before retweeting. But, to continue tweeting, sharing, blogging, and keep the conversations going. Carefully. I would personally like to thank everyone that posted information throughout the Sandy crisis and to say that my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this storm and their families. Lives lost, turned upside down, changed forever. May you all find peace and safety and get through this as easily as possible.