In the past when natural disasters have struck cities and rippled across countries, the rest of the world has been both slow on the uptake and limited in what they could do to support victims. I believe as human beings we are naturally inclined to help others that go through unwarranted tragedy as much as possible. It has been the case however that in a pre-internet age, what we could hope to do was limited to a village raffle or a collection at a church.
However, when Moore, Oklahoma was struck by a tornado on May 20th of this year, the world had the means to raise awareness and actively help out. Thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, the world knew in minutes what had happened. This time social media was there.
Hemant Purohit and Professor Amit Seth of iRevolution.net observed in the first 48 hours of the Oklahoma disaster there had been 2.7 Million tweets on the subject, often accompanied by a hashtag (#). This amazingly equates to approximately 15 tweets a second. iRevolution.net sampled 2.1 million of those tweets made in the first 48 hours and found that 7% of them (around 14,6000 tweets) included discussions with regards to donations.
It is immediately evident that there was a great deal of awareness after the event and with awareness comes activists who want something to change. Many individuals simply used social media to assist the people affected by the Tornado as best they could.
The available support for Oklahoma could also be observed in some of the several Facebook pages that were created online. One of the more notable pages was a Facebook page titled ‘Oklahoma disaster relief direct donations to victims’. This page used the online Facebook community to create an environment where victims could request the essentials they needed in the knowledge that supporters would be able to send them.
The Pastor of the NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma also testified to the impact of social media, stating that “Social media became one of the quickest ways for us to mobilize volunteers and send supplies to areas that were being neglected.” The church also acted as a place of hospice for what were now, homeless families.
Sadly natural disasters will continue to happen and there’s little to nothing we can do to stop it. The only thing we can do is use what is available to us and help the people affected. The kindness of others combined with the current power of social media has ensured that we’ve taken a big step in improving what we can do together.