The Role of Social Media in Times of Crisis

It’s Sunday and a good 24 hours after the 8.9 quake hit Japan.  The death toll hasn’t stopped rising and Japan is buffeted with tsunamis, landslides, and now, the failure of two nuclear reactors.  The first one already exploded while the 2nd one has lost it’s emergency cooling system.  Sea water is being used to cool the 2nd reactor.  If leakage happens, what will that cause to marine life?  And water quality?  Although it’s been reported that there is no actual threat (yet) to human life, it is a critical time in Japan’s history — and our history in the world.  We don’t know if this will be like the Chernobyl disaster.  And I just read that Vietnam will build it’s first nuclear power plant in 2014 in Ninh Thuan.  Umm… can we not pursue that?  After what has happened in Japan, I hope the Vietnamese government are able to plan for this 1st nuclear plant.  How does a backup to the emergency cooling system sound?

Pacific countries have been affected as well, such as Hawaii experiencing tsunamis.  Vietnam is lucky to be surrounded by other countries that we will not be experiencing tsunamis according to the interview with Vietnam Earthquake and Tsunami Warning Centre.  And news has it that by the end of March 2011, Vietnam’s first tsunami alert system will be completed in Da Nang.

And at times of disaster, it’s good to know that we can always contact our friends and family, not just by phone, but also through social media networks.  Given that Vietnam hasn’t fully activated Facebook in the country, at least it hasn’t banned Twitter.  Social media has time and again make known it’s use in the real world.

Inform. To tell you the truth, I didn’t find out about the Japan earthquake via a news channel.  A friend IM’d me about it.  She found out about it seconds after the earthquake hit through an artist she has been following in Twitter who is currently in Japan.

Reassure. In the recent upheaval in Libya, contacting my brother has been difficult but he somehow was able to update his Facebook.  If you are looking for someone in Japan in this time of crisis, Google’s Person Finder might help.

Mobilize. Twitter and Facebook also helped mobilize rescue efforts in the Haiti earthquake of 2010.  Spreading the word has never been this easy.

I wonder how will China cope with such things — let’s face it, Twitter and Facebook are the most popular social media networks used worldwide.  With China banning Twitter and Facebook, it is “socially” cut off from the rest of the world.  Can you believe that even Internet maps on China is banned as well? Other countries such as Iran, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Bangladesh have banned Facebook.  And according to this article, Malaysia will join the banned band as well.  I don’t know how true that is because I still see my Malaysian friends logging on FB.

Social media is not good or evil in per se, but the people who use it is responsible for whatever they post online.  And people such as this guy maligning the Sultan of Malaysia, who could blame countries from disallowing access to such social media platforms?

I am not saying that you’re dead if you’re not registered via any social media but it helps.  And I do hope countries and these social media platforms can find a middle ground. There is a lot of good that these social media tools can be used for when used responsibly.

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2 Responses to The Role of Social Media in Times of Crisis

  1. danny says:

    Malaysia is not going to ban FB as stated in your article. Even the Prime Minister is using FB.

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