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Social media binds the world following Japanese tragedy

April 5, 2011

Aside from food and shelter, one of our basic human needs is connection and communication.

Social Media has changed the way people communicate. It’s this century’s “word of mouth.” Instead of talking to our neighbours across the backyard fence, we share our thoughts and opinions via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Whether it’s to brag about our kids, share gossip or news items or just rant about our crappy day at work, it’s human nature to reach out to others – for support or encouragement or just to vent.

Remember that shampoo commercial back in the day? “I’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends – and so on …” It’s like that, only multiplied exponentially.

It’s redefined the way we share information.

Charlie Sheen’s firing by CBS and subsequent internet rants set new records. Sheen took to Twitter to express his displeasure and share his thoughts.

Tweeted Sheen:  ‘I’m different. I have a different constitution, a different brain, a different heart. I got tiger blood, man’.

Good Time Charlie joined Twitter, breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest person to reach 1 million followers. And he did it in about 24 hours. Due to both his lunacy and surge in popularity via the internet, Sheen garnered 20/20 their best ratings in more than two years when they interviewed him.
This year’s Oscars also received a boost through social media. There was a 200-per-cent increase in referral traffic from Twitter leading up to the awards and the show received an 11-per-cent increase in Nielsen ratings.

Co-host James Franco wasn’t the only person tweeting during the ceremony — hundreds of thousands of others joined in, sharing their thoughts about who should have won (The Fighter), who looked great (Mila Kunis) and who should host next year (anyone but James Franco and Anne Hathaway).

Then effect of social media became even more evident during Japan’s earthquake March 11.

Despite the destruction and lack of power, many were still able to access internet and cellular.  Less than an hour after the quake, the number of tweets from Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter.  Tweets with hashtags of #prayforJapan and #tsunami were prevalent.  Thousands of Facebook users in Japan updated their profiles in order to let loved ones know they were okay.  Millions expressed sympathy and support.
Then there was this:

Sending condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who lost loved ones in the earthquake & tsunamis. U.S. stands ready to help. – tweet by Barack Obama.

In a message sent after the earthquake from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to U.S. citizens in Japan, Americans were told “to continue your efforts to be in contact with your loved one(s) using SMS texting and other social media (e.g., FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) that your loved one(s) may use.”

Social media helped keep millions of people connected to what was happening and assisted in raising $25 million in the first four days via online and text donations. Tools such as Google Crisis Response gave details on how to donate as well as other information.

Hundreds of thousands of people who normally may not have noticed what was going on in other parts of the world became connected to this tragedy through social media. They cared.

As if it was happening in their own back yard.

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