For so many people, social media is exactly that – a place to be social. But during the dramatic unfolding of devastating weather conditions in the state of Alabama, social media became more than just a social website – it became a lifeline for so many. Facebook became a site to literally check-in on your friends’ lives. For those who had already lost power, it was a way to pass along information to the outside world that your friends were among the living.
It also serves as a giant Hallmark card of sorts. For our friends who have lost so much, once they are able to check back in, hopefully the sight of their Facebook wall will help them to get through the next stage – whether it is grieving, recovery or rebuilding. For our own co-workers, the outpouring of love and concern and the many offers of assistance should serve to at least let them know that they are loved, in our thoughts and that their needs are our top priority.
And as the state begins to pick up the pieces of what these tornadoes left behind, the number of pages popping up on Facebook to assist are truly inspiring. The page “Animals Lost & Found from the Tornadoes in Alabama on 4/27/11” helps connect displaced pets with “foster parents” until their owners can be located as well as alerting people as to missing pets. “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” allows the return of what may appear to be debris to some but could be the only photo reclaimed of a dear family member.
I’ve seen everything from “how to volunteer”, how to donate, how to file your insurance claim pop up within the last 18 hours. It also serves as the most relevant news source to some. After all, the news that’s important to our friends tends to be that which is most important to us.
And while the penetration of Facebook continues to increase, one can only imagine that it will continue to have an important role in these types of events. For me, social media took on a whole new realm of meaning in my life this week.