March 11, 2011: We Found the Power of Social Media (Part 1)

(C) calgaryherald

Social media has dramatically changed the landscape of our communication. But the new communication tools allow for something more: the possibility to save our lives.

At 14:46 on March 11th, 2011, I was working on the sixth floor of a building in Tokyo. The quake struck the building without warning. I thought I would die, because I had not experienced such a huge quake before. I picked up my mobile phone and tried to call my wife. But I could not get through to her. The phone networks were down.

Some people around me began communicating on Twitter and Facebook. The Internet was relatively unaffected, so they were able to use data services and text. These communication venues helped them connect with their families and friends unsure of their whereabouts, and let their loved ones know they were okay. At this moment, I found the immense power of these communication tools: social media saves people.

This blog post is about the implication of social media I saw during the crisis. Especially, I will focus on four tools: Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube.


Twitter was one of the most valuable methods for us, the people in Japan, to connect with our families and friends. Within one hour after the quake, the number of tweets from Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter (also, the site shows the current number of tweets from your area). For users in Japan, Twitter posted a guide in Japanese and English to help us communicate with our loved ones. The guide also included earthquake-related hashtags to lead us to special sections where we could get updated information on the crisis. Additionally, one of the most used hashtags globally in the first half of 2011 was #prayforjapan.

The number of Tweets from Tokyo on March 11th, 2011. (C) Tweet-o-Meter


Facebook also played a vital role in connecting people. Before March 11th, Facebook was suffering from flagging adoption in Japan, because Japanese people were allegedly reluctant to use their real names online. However, since March 11th, Japanese Facebook visitors have been dramatically increasing. According to NetRatings Japan Inc., the research firm affiliated with the Nielsen Company, the number of visitors per month surged up to 10.83 million in August 2011, from 1.93 million in August 2010. This is because we have found the benefits of real names during the crisis. Real names helped us identify our families and friends. If we had used pseudonym, we could not have found and communicated with each other. This experience has shown us the huge advantages of real names. You can read stories about how the platform saved us on the Facebook stories page. Also, Facebook provided its visitors with digital ways to donate to victims such as

(I will continue this topic after my next post)

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7 thoughts on “March 11, 2011: We Found the Power of Social Media (Part 1)

  1. This is a perfect example of how social media should be utilized. This medium proved to be a lifesaving tool for all involved. The catastrophic earthquake that hit Japan almost a year ago caused panic and chaos. Many Japanese citizens used Twitter and Facebook as a way to communicate with families and friends about the severity of the situation. I am certain that tweeting helped with the rescue efforts and alerted Japanese officials of some of the issues that survivors faced. Through Facebook and Twitter, Japanese citizens created a communal link in the rescue and recovery efforts. Thereby, giving the rest of the world a firsthand account of the events as it developed.

  2. After reading your post I got a newfound respect for social platforms. Do not take me wrong, I have been using Facebook and Twitter for some time now, yet they way these social networks helped people of Japan is unbelievable. Your story made me realize that sometimes we take social platforms for granted. For instance, I am an everyday user of Facebook for the past five years, but not once I have thought that this tool could save lives of millions of people. Social media networks made our lives easier on both professional and personal levels. Most importantly, though, they proved to be number one essential tools during such crisis.

  3. This is a great piece to showcase how social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be used for more than what is was intended for. Every time I read a story written from a person who experienced this tragic event on March 11, 2011 makes my heart race. I remember when the earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Japan, all I did was worry about my family and close friends who were in Japan. Calling didn’t work because the lines were out, so all we had to do is depend on Facebook updates as it came in. This proved how powerful these social media platforms can be, and allow us to not only build global communities, but also allow us to communicate in times of emergencies. I’m happy that you and your wife are safe and can live to tell your story.

  4. I have a similar experience back in Taiwan. On August 8th, 2009, a serious flood cause by Typhoon Morakot wrought catastrophic damage in Taiwan, leaving 461 people dead and 192 others missing, most of whom are feared dead and roughly $3.3 billion USD in damages. One mudslide buried the entire Xiaolin Village. Since it was Father’s Day in Taiwan, the government was on vacation that day. People were so angry about how inefficient the government was that they groups together on Plurk(Taiwanese version of Twitter). People who lived in affected area posted what they needed on Plurk, and others would help getting them. Thanks to the invention of smartphone, when the affected areas were so damaged that the media still couldn’t get in, residents took photos to shared with their friends, telling their friends they were fine.

  5. Pingback: March 11, 2011: We Found the Power of Social Media (Part 2) | Exploration for outer space

  6. Pingback: The Dark Side of Social Media: Facebook Addiction | Exploration for outer space

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