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

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

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 facebook.com/redcross.

(I will continue this topic after my next post)

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