Japanese earthquake, social media, and disasters

by Bradley Jobling on March 20, 2011

Japanese Earthquake 20110311*

Japanese Earthquake March 3, 2011

There is another disaster in the news and once again people are talking about the importance of social media during times of crisis. Unlike Haiti, this disaster happened in a more developed country. Similar to Haiti social media and the Internet has played an important means of communicating with others. Yet there has been some distinct differences.

First of all Japan has internationally recognized news broadcasters. Even before this NHK had a live stream of their channel. So one big difference between the earthquake here and the one in Haiti are the sources of news. Yet having an international broadcast doesn’t meant that other news organizations such as CNN, did not rely on a few well-informed Twitter followers. I saw one self reported video being Tweeted around of a tsunami wave rolling into a town, attaining a foot of depth for every minute that passed until it had crested at twelve feet. At that point buildings were floating away from their foundations.

Yet I still think that on the ground people are able to get and obtain information about relatives like never before because of the Internet. Google’s People Finder is in use in Japan as it was in Christchurch during their earthquake. In my own experiences during the 9/11 attack, social media did not exist as a discipline today, but I was able to tell my family that I was OK via AOL chat.

So the Internet has been of use in crises for over a decade with certain advantages because of social media. Which leaves me wondering how this will vary in the years to come once broadband has advanced the broadcast and news industries of the developing countries? What will be our sources of information? How will social media and the Internet be used to help those involved on the ground? In the future, if we we are informed of every crisis, will we be as willing to reach out to others when we are asked to help and donate yet again?

* Photo Courtesy: W.Rebel

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