After weathering the storm, I have two reactions to Hurricane Sandy’s coverage on social media platforms. While I could easily bring up the numerous fake photos flying around Facebook, or Con Edison’s Twitter campaign and proactive online reputation management, AirBnB’s public relations statement helping evacuees, or even Google’s dynamic crisis map, instead I will mention two things that became much more personal: Instagram and my experience with a social media blackout.
While the topic of “Instagram” may sound very general and vague, for me, it was my first time using the social media platform. I am proud to say, that for the first days of the storm (before the power and cell service went out), I became enthralled by the app I had in my phone for months, yet never came around to using. Hurricane Sandy gave me the motivation to learn how to publicly post my hipster-esque photos and gave me the perfect environment to capture unique shots. With a little help from two classmates, I took my first steps towards new social media horizons. Surprisingly enough, I even have 17 complete strangers following me and my #sandy photos!
The second social media observation I made during Hurricane Sandy was how dependent our society is on it. Few people consider what they have until it’s gone, and on Tuesday night, when my power was killed, I realized exactly how important new technologies are, especially during times of crisis when communication is all the more important. While I sat at my computer checking in with friends on Facebook, gathering news as it was happening, emailing concerned family, etc., my lights flickered once, then twice, then gave out completely. And as the power grid failed, it took out my nearest AT&T tower with it. I was in the dark and I couldn’t even Google why. With no internet and no phone, I was forced to stay connected the traditional way, socially minus the “media”. I was so old school, I even started making collect calls from local pay phones before it was cool! I realized that while most of the time, we use social media for basic entertainment, it also plays a much more important role on a sociological level. Furthermore, for all the admirable public relations work being done by local companies, it was limited by the fact that modern society largely depends on internet connectivity to have access to it; something Sandy made painfully obvious.