Posts by Patrice Lamiral - Sao Paulo

Social media, information scarcity and the Chilean earthquake

social-mediaWe’ve heard plenty about information overload and how we simply don’t have enough time to keep up with everything in the 21st century. In this respect, social media can certainly be a villain—just take a look at your Facebook or Twitter page to see how much fresh information your friends are sharing right now. Recently, however, I learned firsthand that Facebook, Twitter and the other social media sites that are seen as sources of information overload are heroes in situations of information scarcity.

This happened two months ago, after Chile’s deadly earthquake. After learning about it on TV from my home in São Paulo, I immediately tried to reach my relatives in Concepción, which is just a few miles from the earthquake’s epicenter. Much of my family is there, including my grandmother, who lives alone. I used all means at hand—land line, mobile phone, e-mail—but nothing worked. So I decided to try Twitter and Facebook. I got some vague but encouraging information from someone who replied to me on Twitter. Then, after browsing through Facebook profiles of my relatives, I learned from a friend of a friend that my family was OK. Six hours after the earthquake, I was able to rest easy and to call my parents with the good news. It was four days before we had any phone contact with Concepción.

Photo Credit: webtreats