Communication styles have constantly changed as society becomes more high-tech and innovative. In times of crisis, people seek ways to retrieve and share valuable information. When the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, officially named the Great East-Japan earthquake, struck the north east coast (Tohoku area) of Japan on March 11, 2010, social media tools became the most reliable communication mediums between family, friends and the general public.
The earthquake was the most powerful one to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. It triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 38.9 m (128 ft) and in some cases travelled up to 10 km (6.2 miles) inland. As of June 5, the Japanese National Police Agency has confirmed 15,365 deaths, 5,363 injured and 8,206 people missing across eighteen prefectures, as well as over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. The tsunami resulted in over 300,000 refugees in the northeastern Japan and left around 4.4 million households without electricity and 1.5 million without water.
Twitter, Facebook become communication lifelines after Japan quake
Tokyo’s transportation network and communication systems were paralyzed after the earthquake because of constant congestion and citizens helplessly trying to contact loved ones. Since the phone lines were dead for almost a day, people utilized the internet to communicate with others and gather information. The internet and social networks became the platforms to retrieve information about disaster struck areas, nuclear power plants, supporting messages for those who were suffering as well as donation and charity events.
A research firm IMJ Mobile has announced the survey results of how people used Twitter and Facebook for the first 72 hours after the quake. It points out the new usage of SNS as an emergency communication tool. Purpose of using at the quake: Twitter for “Information”, Facebook for “people” (Yomiuri Online -Japanese only) Twitter was mainly used for information gathering (84%) and information sharing (48%). Facebook was used for safety confirmation of loved ones (56%) and information gathering (47%). Resource: IMJ Mobile (20113/26-3/28, Age 20-59, n=932)
Searching for reliable information online after confusion stemming from sensationalized media reports
During the quake the western media reports created more fear among foreigners living in Japan, not to mention their family and friends in their home countries. Japanquake wiki, a wiki about Tohoku earthquake and information sharing platform “Journalist Wall of Shame” was created to share the correct information in English.
Uptick of Facebook and Twitter users
From the effect of the earthquake, Facebook showed a sharp increase in Japanese users to 7.7 million (M/M increase by 127%) and Twitter to 17.6 million (M/M increase by 137%).
Twitter revealed that 177 million tweets were sent on the day of the quake, March 11, 2011. Although it does not show the number of tweets happening within Japan, it shows the high concentration of Twitter communication during and after the earthquake. People not only tweeted useful information about the impact of the quake, but tsunami and radiation related information as well. It was also used to post encouraging comments to people who suffered or still suffering.
The site “Pray for Japan”, created on the March 11, is a compilation of inspiring and heartwarming tweets from Japan and messages of support from around the world. 20 year old Hiroyuki Tsuruda built the site at an evacuation zone with no electricity on the night of the March 11. The site is now available in 13 different languages.
The Wall Street Journal covered a Twitter phenomenon after the quake regarding the unique hashtag: #edano_nero, imploring the government’s spokesman Yukio Edano to get some rest. (And of course, the hashtag for Prime Minister Kan, “#kan_okiro”, “Okiro” meaning ”wake up” in Japanese.)
One of the leading research firms in Japan, Nomura Institute of Research announced their survey result on “Trends in people’s use and views of media in the wake of the Tohoku – Pacific Ocean Earthquake” It shows that the confidence on TV regained after the continual report by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) while national and local governments fell. Meanwhile social media also showed the increase of its confidence.
USTREAM was also used to distribute the latest news. NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, used USTREAM to broadcast their news programs in both Japanese and English for those without TVs. A total of 22,547,597 people watched the site until its closure on March 25.
The role and geographical reach of social media is expanding exponentially. It adapts to our lifestyle and is even becoming our main source for information in times of crisis. Languages and culture may differ but during times of disaster, social media proves to be a powerful uniting resource.
Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/EdelmanDigital/~3/DNrbpv0K8s8/