Sunday, March 6, 2011

Social media and the Christchurch earthquake

I was introduced to social media in 2007 by Leigh Blackall and Sue Waters and have watched SM trends very closely since, especially in education and health. I have been fascinated to see how social media has moved from being 'just for the kids' to mainstream and an essential part of life. Nowhere has this been illustrated more in New Zealand than the Christchurch earthquake.

Twitter and news gathering
Twitter has grown the most in terms of importance. It was Twitter that relayed the news of the earthquake first. I was watching Twitter at the time of the earthquake and saw people's descriptions of what was going on before TV coverage started. And it was Twitter that the news channels turned to when Wellington had its small shake earlier this week.

Keeping in touch
The other thing that has struck me is the way people have used SM to contact me to find out if I'm OK. Of course, being in Dunedin, I was no where near Christchurch. But it was lovely to get Twitter and Facebook messages from people checking to see if I was alright.....from people I have never met, but now have an online relationship with.

And now the dust is settling (excuse the pun), we're starting to see the less serious use of SM, although some of these uses have been controversial, for example, the Twitter trend #eqnzpickuplines. My favourite pick up line is "Are you sure you're from Christchurch? Because you don't have any faults". We've also seen the huge following on Facebook of "Jeremy the Sign Language Guy" who has been a wonderful ambassador of sign language during the daily press conferences.

Personal stories
But as people start to get access to power and the Internet we're seeing the personal stories emerge, which gives a poignancy to our understanding of what's going on beyond television, such as the experience of Bronnie Thompson, who is a lecturer and occupational therapist in Christchurch.

How has SM played a part for you during the Christchurch earthquake?


Jane Scripps said...

I really loved seeing the sign language guy each time there was a media conference. Well done the media advisor who added him in. We have a NZ signer in this household, you can imagine how affirming the sight of Jeremy was.

Sarah Stewart said...

Yes, Jeremy has really raised the profile and made it "sexy" to be a signer.

Merrolee said...

Like you Sarah, the first I knew of the earthquake was feeling the tremor here, and then in almost the same second Twitter went crazy... I knew it had to be a biggie, and it was Twitter that gave me the first information about the quake, where it was and what was happening. The visual images followed later once the TV crews were able to get filming. Tweets led me to many of the poignant posts, or the sad tales..

And yes.. many online friends from around the world checked in with me through FB and twitter... and were able to follow with what I retweeted.

All you OT's out there, do follow Bronnie's blog- it's a real insider/outsider story...

Sarah Stewart said...

@Merrolee I did a lot of re-tweeting during the first week of the earthquake, in a deliberate pass on news to my followers outside New Zealand. I felt a bit like a reporter.

Reading the personal blogs and/or comments on FB make things such much more real than watching TV....because they are comments from 'real' people...people I know.