Friday Fave-Facebook and Twitter in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami

What a night.

 There aren’t words that can convey the last 24 hours experience; watching the surreal footage of devastation in Japan then the night-long wait we all shared in the quiet dark, pierced only by the eerie echo of the emergency warning sirens.

I’m currently on an overnight work shift and was getting ready for work when we saw on the news that Japan had been shaken by an 8.9 earthquake. All of Hawaii has such strong ties to Japan; most of us have family or friends there. I’ve only been to Japan once with Scott but he’s visited friends there annually for the last ten years. We have good friends on the north island of Hokkaido and in the south half of Honshu, especially in Tokyo and in Osaka. As we watched the news coverage, video feed began rolling of the tsunami sweeping across the coastline and we could only watch in silence, completely stunned.

And we began our long night worrying about Japan and trying to prepare ourselves for the unknown. Sirens blared, evacuations began and yours truly still had to report to work. Unbelievably, my position is classified “essential” and so I left my husband and baby at home and drove to work shortly before midnight. Thankfully, our home is far away from the inundation zone so I felt confident I wouldn’t be worrying about them while at work all night. I spent a long night watching for updates on the news and online.

This week’s Friday Fave award has to go to social media outlets. The power of Twitter and Facebook is phenomenal. Mayor Carlisle urged everyone to stay off their phones unless it was an emergency. But even with that request, the congestion made my cell phone useless for getting through to anyone. So, everyone jumped on Twitter and Facebook. Our friend Jenny twittered from Nagoya that she was safe. We jumped on Facebook to leave “Are you okay” for Gabe, our friend who works at a school in Nishinomiya. And within the hour, he facebooked that he was unharmed and safe.

PS. That profile pic of Scott is old and he does not look like that. He's trying to convince me he can go back to his mullet days. Not going to happen.

 

Our pastor was on a plane at the Tokyo airport and although he couldn’t call anyone, we were able to communicate with him throughout the night using his Facebook page.  He posted pictures as he joined the crowds hunkering down in the terminal to spend the night.  Many of us, including his wife here on Oahu, sent encouraging messages and whatever info we had from the news.  On Facebook’s wall, I could literally see everyone reaching out to help each other.  People on higher grounds opening up their homes to those on lower grounds.  It was incredible to watch unfold on the newsfeed.

 

Facebook and Twitter became the best source for updates, the news stations and radios couldn’t get the information out as quickly as people could on Facebook. In the midst of all this, an earthquake shook the Big Island.  We found out almost instantaneously because people posted it within the first minute. My sister, brother, father, and nephew live on the Big Island but I was reassured when I saw my sister on Facebook  posting a video of my baby girl for her friends to see. I safely guessed that the earthquake hadn’t really affected them.

 

You could see so many people using facebook to check in with their family and find reassurance.  Our friend, Sarah, used facebook to check in on all her family, including her brother, Paul. 

Throughout the night, there were moments of humor as we reflected on how everyone reacts a little differently to emergencies.  I did tease my niece who was trying to find a van to borrow so she could launch a self-led rescue of the animals at the zoo.  And I admitted that our hurricane kit is probably a little lacking.  We only have one flashlight with half-dead batteries and one candle.

And as the night began to end and we realized how fortunate we were to escape major damage, our first thoughts were once again focused on Japan. 

Now, CNN is urging people to use Facebook and Twitter to reach out to those in Japan that they still haven’t been able to reach. Google has a site to register either information about a person you are trying to find or to enter information you have for someone.  As we’ve learned from Katrina, we all want to help in any way we can but it’s best to donate to established organizations who are experienced in disaster relief and will be best equipped to use those resources.   People can  text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.  Your donations will be included in your wireless bill (see here for explanation).  You can also go to www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. 

 It’s crazy that they’re not even out of the woods as aftershocks that we would consider major earthquakes are still happening with alarming frequency and the whole world is watching Japan tackle their power plants and rescue efforts.  One thing I must say, the country of Japan is no stranger to natural disasters and their preparedness and building codes saved thousands, possible millions.

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  • Scott - March 12, 2011 - 2:31 pm

    Social media will now always outpace mainstream media. There were several things I read about on Facebook/Twitter that I tried to find on various media outlets but couldn’t find anything. Take, for instance, the HECO strike ending. I read about it on FB hours before I could find anything on local media.

  • […] just posted about the epic reach of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook so it’s fitting […]

  • Joy - March 13, 2011 - 10:55 pm

    I know I was on FB most of the night. Checking on and updating everyone. Unfortunately my phone died around 4 so I had to wait until I went home to see if I had to still go into work.

  • Connie - March 14, 2011 - 3:04 am

    Great post, Keao. People who are anti-social networking, cannot imagine the heart that really centers this phenomena, I only wish they could experience it.

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