By: Amy Jo Martin
This was one of the most impactful moments of my life. I realized social media can allow us to accelerate the act of kindness.
I was on the elliptical, perusing twitter on my iPad to pass the time, when the news broke about the earthquake in Japan. Twitter was instantly inundated with the breaking news. The live footage on CNN showing semi trucks getting washed away and people trying to outrun the waves in their vehicles will be something I never forget. It was an epic moment for the world for those who were awake. On 9/11, I was on vacation on a remote island in the South Pacific that had nearly zero connectivity. Due to the impact on flights and air safety, I was stuck there for an extra week due so I’ve always felt disconnected from what it was truly like to experience the tragedy first-hand.
After the earthquake hit, my heart pounded for four hours straight. The tragedy and aftermath in Japan was one thing but nobody knew what was about to happen as the tsunami hit other regions. Those next few hours represented a crucial period of time we’ll never be able to get back. We had one shot at taking measures to prevent more possible casualties.
I wasn’t sure what to do but I felt accountable and compelled to help in some way. With zero traditional journalism or “reporter” experience under my belt, I put on my research hat and sifted through relevant tweets and links. Conveniently, most valuable people, stories and media outlets found their way to the surface fairly easily. However, these valuable pieces of info didn’t always have the largest distribution. Not knowing what to do, I started retweeting, asking people to send me valuable content so I could share to a larger audience and connect the dots. There was nothing special about me wanting to help, everyone did and everyone was. The only difference was my reach and I couldn’t go to sleep without offering it up.
This wasn’t about promoting or marketing anything, this was about people coming together virtually to help each other. It was the business of humanity.
Social channels are communication tools. Just like the telephone. They weren’t invented for marketers or crisis communication situations. Humans decide what they want to communicate. Certain large news organizations with huge twitter followings went dark that night. I’m sure if they were sleeping, uneducated about how to help more using these tools or concerned about the way their brand would be perceived but for the sake of saving lives, I hope they get it figured out. They should be held accountable to inform. Sometimes you need to put Charlie Sheen in the backseat and focus on the right thing to do.