Last week I lost internet connection at my apartment. I didn’t think much of it; it happens occasionally. My area isn’t known for strong signal. I knew there was a storm coming, but without television or internet, I would not have been prepared for the past few days.
A friend noticed I hadn’t been on social media last Monday (I’m usually either on Tumblr, Gmail chat, or GroupMe) and called me to let me know that they were evacuating my area because the dams were failing. I live near Fort Jackson in Forest Acres, South Carolina, and I had seen the waters rising, although I’d believed it would slack off and we wouldn’t be in harm’s way.
Another friend texted me to make sure I knew I needed to leave and seek shelter, and by the time I had gotten into another friend’s car, both my tablet and phone were making urgent noises to let me know that others were concerned for my safety.
I sent maybe a hundred texts in the next half hour attempting to check on friends, updated my Facebook status so friends knew I was aware of the danger, and kept an eye on other social media outlets for up-to-date information.
Once I was safely established at a friend’s house out of town, I started following events and joined the conversation online to ensure that others knew what was happening, where help was needed, and when to expect to return to my home.
I still haven’t been able to go home, but I’ve been lucky enough to be near a computer or a phone or a tablet so that my friends and I can check on each other and make sure we’re all ok.
Once the roads are cleared, I will be able to go home. Many people have had it much worse than me (See Video Below), and I plan on giving back however I can in order to make sure we’re all taken care of and have what we need to survive over the next few months as we work toward some semblance of normalcy. I’ll be using social media to determine where my money and time will be best spent.
— Erik Kimrey (@ErikKimrey) October 4, 2015
One of my friends remarked that she was thankful for social media because it allowed her to keep in touch with people and gave her peace of mind to know that we were alright. That got me thinking about all of the benefits social media provides for just circumstances such as these.
Without social media, we would not have up-to-date information: We would not know which donations were requested most, or where these items were immediately needed. Some of us would not have been evacuated in time. And we would not know which roads were safe to travel on.
News stations now have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts which allow for real-time sharing of information, and the ability to share with those who may not have television access (like me — we don’t get television signal where I live). In the wrong hands, social media may be responsible for some heinous things, but put in the right hands, it can literally save lives.
There have been some heartwarming stories coming out of social media the last few days, including the woman who grabbed foodstuffs in the form of Totino’s Pizzas — people contacted Totino’s to make them aware of the story, and they offered help. A college friend of mine rescued a baby squirrel that is now getting famous in the UK via Instagram.
I think one of the greatest things about social media is that sharing all this information allows the burden to be spread among many. We all have the choice to be involved, share the responsibility, pass the facts around, and make educated decisions on the fly.
By joining the online community, many of us were able to avoid disaster, provide for our neighbors, and stay safe while weathering the storm that tore apart our city. I’ll be interested to see how social media plays a part in reconstruction.
If you are able to share resources, please help South Carolina by donating your time, money, or much-needed items. You can learn about ways to help here:Image Credits: NOAA, National Guard