In the last several years, social media is changing the ways in which we live. While the world of technology is quickly changing, the environment in which we live is as well. More natural disasters on traumatic levels are being seen to impact those around us. It has been seen within the last five years, that the internet, and social media alone raise a level of awareness. It is used to help those in distress during after such disasters, examples of this would be Superstorm Sandy and Hurricanes Irma and Maria that recently hit Puerto Rico.
Social media gives organizations the ability to spread information to their supporters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Clicktivism as “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.” The uses of social media allow for the messages to spread rapidly, helping to make a bigger impact faster. This has not just been seen to help the environment but a tactic that many activists use to spread awareness. In 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill occurred, local residents took to social media to raise awareness about the spill. The spill was one of the worst environmental disasters in American history and scientists are still studying the damage it has caused. The local residents shared through social media their personal stories and looked for help from the rest of the nation.
Social media to gain the nations’ help was used after the most tragic natural disaster New Jersey has seen, Super Storm Sandy. This storm caused an overall shift in how social media is used before, during, and after natural disasters. In the weeks following Super Storm Sandy along the Jersey Shore, residents were turning to social media for updates, organizations willing to help, and community coping groups. Government agencies were turning to online and or mobile technology after Sandy made landfall in order to communicate with responders and residents. In my hometown of Oceanport, New Jersey first responders took to social media with important information such as, evacuation plans and dangerous areas around town due to damage. When it comes to using social media and online sources during a time of disaster there can be many flaws that go unrecognized.
During Sandy, local government agencies did their best to publish their information through a centralized portal. The Mayor of New York City provided information through the www.nyc.gov. This one website provided information for residents on how to aid the city in the time after the storm made landfall, Volunteer opportunities and availability of resources including where to find or donate food, open gas stations, pharmacies, hotels, and restaurants. This centralized website put out by city officials gave residents a trustworthy source to get information from. Centralized websites that were created in the days following Sandy was, www.USA.gov/sandy and www.FEMA.gov/sandy. The United States government page gave the information from the government related to Sandy and FEMA’s page gave specific recovery information based on locations. “From October 22 through December 31, 2012, the Hurricane Sandy page on USA.gov was viewed over 71,000 times, with the Hurricane Sandy widget being viewed over 2.8 million times. The Spanish version of the page was viewed over 3,600 times and the Spanish widget was viewed over 10,000 times.” (Lessons Learned). The creation of this website aided in a smooth recovery for most communities providing them with one location to find any help they needed.
Centralized websites were not the only online source that gave aid to residents during Sandy. Multi-way information was put in use through social media to help with sharing and highlighting the useful information and news. Social media was used for more than just reporting to the public, from the government.