Responses to a disaster can come in multiple different forms, due to the shear mass and panic of the situation it is difficult to manage and organise people however social media has revolutionised this and I plan to research and understand what this entails. Social media is now a huge part of the 21st century and the future, although there are many who may disagree with it and claim it is more of an inconvenience than a benefit is has ultimately brought significant improvements to responses to a disaster.
Worldwide Vs Local Victims;
Responses to a crisis have always been able to be categorised into local or worldwide impacts. These can come in many different forms however social media has created a ‘shrinking world’ meaning that connections and communications around the world are far quicker than they ever used to be. In hand, it is apparent that now not only are the victims, local viewers and participants impacted but the whole world. Previously the news of a crisis would have been shared with the whole world in a matter of days (excluding those too poor for any kind of connections) yet now this news spreads in a matter of minutes via social media. Firstly, this is a huge benefit to societies because it means that anyone with friends or family in an effected area can easily know what the situation is and understand it. Another positive of social media for the local victims and community is that it allows them to stay safe and alert. In the immediate aftermath of a crisis the communities’ resilience and a survival does not only depend on having the basic necessities of food, water and shelter but also on understanding and knowledge of a situation, of questions such as ‘Where can I gain medical help?’, ‘Can I return home yet?’ and ‘Where are my friends and family?’. This critical information is a vital building block in restoring people’s lives, hope and dignity. Furthermore, having this information can be lifesaving which is why social media is such a huge help in these hectic situations. It’s simple, doesn’t need mobile phone signal and most of all anyone can access it and receive the online help. A lot of the time people are not hurt or in danger but purely just need information and this is the brilliance of social media as it means the information is on hand for the locals and then the emergency services can focus on those who seriously need them.
Stress responses that are clinically diagnosable are highly common in the result of a crisis to both those who lived in the surrounding areas to those who lived all over the world. In the aftermath of the huge disaster of 9/11 one of the main repercussions was PTSD. However, unlike common belief it was proven that the majority recovered from the PTSD on their own, showing how resilient the society in 2001 was even without the support and communication of social media. Despite disasters differing hugely the reactions of people psychologically are often very similar. Often alongside PTSD, ‘survivor guilt’ effects a large proportion of victims, this is a likely occurrence if the victim had a close friend, colleague or family member who died or if they escaped when hundreds were unable to, it is likely that social media increases the amount of people effected by ‘survivor guilt’ as it spreads specific facts such as information about the individuals who lost their lives. Dass-Brailford is an American professor who specialises in disaster related trauma. She surveyed citizens soon after 9/11 and surprisingly found that the majority suffered no PSTD or severe stress response at all.
She said that; “We cannot assume that everyone will have trauma reactions, we shouldn’t be projecting that.”
Highlighting a huge negative of social media in the fact that it projects information on a vast scale.
Most likely proven by her research she states that most people will not be affected by any severe stress, this is likely due to societies ability to stay resilient and strong through the hardest of times. Additionally, this will be because when such a huge event occurs thousands of local people are thrown into the same situation no matter their age, class or gender. This brings people together and allows them to support one another in recovering together. However, social media is bringing a new side to this as it provides a huge platform for trauma and disaster information to be projected from.
Social media sites such as Instagram can be both positive and negative in many ways. In relation to how Dass-Brailford suggests that we shouldn’t be projecting the ideas that everyone suffers with trauma, social media is a clear negative. It allows people to post information about trauma which although is good as it allows awareness to spread, it also increases paranoia and causes Munchausen syndrome where people convince themselves that they have an illness that they don’t really have. Social media sites also allow people to share their experiences of trauma with the whole world and this is not good as once again it is a platform for trauma to be projected from and hence seen as something more common than it is.
Generally, PTSD symptoms decline over time after the disaster. Proven by research conducted in New York on the general population following the 9/11 attack showed that rates of PTSD lessened from 5% a year after the attack to 3.8% two years after the attack. However social media brings a new element to this as in 2001 after the attack there was the media which broadcast imagery but not nearly to the same extent as nowadays. Disaster footage is now broadcast for months after a crisis and thanks to social media will be easily available forever. This sadly ensures the victims have no escape from the reality and harshly clear images of the disaster.
How social media impacts aid during a disaster
Social media has bought a revolutionary way to share and spread information. The easy and fast connectivity online has a huge positive impact on a society during a disaster. No longer are the only way to know what is happening during an event is through formal bulletins but through any source online, many companies are coming to see this and are using social media to improve an otherwise traumatic time. Unlike during hurricane Katrina hit when there was no iPhone or twitter and Facebook was only new, during the Boston bombings twitter took a huge stand in helping citizens. During the disaster 25% of Americans looked to social networks for information and this figure has significantly risen in more recent events. The Boston police used twitter to their advantage by regularly tweeting updates on what was happening. With their final tweet reading “CAPTURED!!!” and gaining 140,000 retweets. In this event twitter allowed all citizens to remain in contact with one another and beyond, having this platform enabled citizens to stick together as a community therefore bringing far higher resilience, which is a key aspect in mentally surviving a traumatic event. Hence social media has had a vastly impactful and positive effect on aiding society during a disaster and enabling connectivity of many kinds.
This positive use of social media has greatly improved the way that people respond during a disaster. Yet this has only become a major platform used in recent years. Previously information was only released on formal platforms and bulletins meaning less people knew and less information was known about. Through social media different sides to the same event can be released and peoples understanding of the entre event is much broader. Nowadays once people’s ability to uses SMS or phone calls is removed thier instincts turn to social media in order to reach loved ones and help. This is most probably one of the largest advantages of social media now being available to use during a disaster.
Social media may have many positives during a disaster however there can also be many negatives that also should be considered. Social medias fast flow of information can ultimately save lives but this can severely backfire when false information is released. False information can for instance tell victims that it is safe to leave their safety site when in reality there is nothing worse they could do, resulting in more deaths or injuries than if victims had been able to have access to the true information. When victims are in such a vulnerable state taking advantage, and exploiting them through social media is something that can occur with intention or by accident. Another malicious way of using social media is sadly by when terrorist plan a double attack and release on social media a piece of information that causes people to locate in a certain place and then attack at the same point.
This ability for information to spread at an extremely fast pace impacts society positively during a disaster however social media can also cause traumatic issues worldwide. Everyone responds to the disaster differently however watching live footage of the event is far more likely to have major repercussions compared to hearing a radio reporter. This is caused by social media which easily allows the exposure of graphic and upsetting images to be seen by thousands more people now than in previous years pre-social media. Therefore, this can increase panic across a far larger span than if it hadn’t been released to the global eye. Although it can be argued that when people have a higher exposure to graphic images it is more likely to prompt them to send aid and help, it ultimately impacts far more people than it should. Young children are undoubtedly going to also be exposed to the heart-breaking images and hence increases the amount of trauma that a disaster can spread. In addition, this higher trauma caused by social media can have further implements when looking at a terrorist attack which ultimately intends to gain attention from society. Therefore, social media is a platform that brings multiple and severe implications as well as having many positive impacts too.
How social media is changing and differing overtime/around the world
Social networking sites have surprisingly been developing for a long time with the very first forms of communication being letters and the now far more efficient postal service.
Social media – “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content (such as videos).”
550BC – Postal Service
1792 – The Telegraph
1890 – Telephone
1891 – Radio
1966 – Email
1979 – Usenet (users could post articles or posts to news groups)
1997 – Sixdegrees (first modern social networking site)
1999 – Livejournal (another social networking site with blogs too)
2001 – Wikipedia
2003 – MySpace (became the most popular social networking site in the world)
2005 – Youtube
2006 – Facebook
2007 – Tumblr
2008 – Spotify
2010 – Instagram
2013 – Vine
Development of communications was clearly slow.
Advancements began to increase after the internet was invented this allowed fast communications to become much easier.
In the 21st century development advanced at a rapid speed with a new and more technical social networking site being created almost every year.
From around 2006 when Facebook and Twitter became popular was when social media really began to become a worldwide phenomenon.
In 1792 when the telegraph was invented a new and revolutionary speed was bought to communications, with news and information travelling quicker than ever. However, then the telephone was invented which was the very first communication system which allowed people to communicate instantaneously.
A rapid development begun in the 20th century. After the first super computer was made in the 1940’s scientists began to create networks between computers and this lead to the discovery of the internet.
The internet developed tremendously with emails and virtual newsletters becoming more popular. After the first social networking site (six degrees) and blogging sites, social media began to explode in popularity.
Today there is a huge variety of social networking sites. Many can be linked and so creates an environment in which people can easily communicate instantaneously.
Social media has a huge impact on the way people connect during a disaster and this has only strengthened with the evolution of social media (since 2004/5). Before this time communication tools highly relied on above ground structure such as mobile phone towers and antenna, in the event of a natural disaster these systems are easily broken by winds and storms (Piper,2006). In advance of this bloggers and social media users are seeing the benefit of the simplistic use of social media. Post 2005 and Hurricane Katrina, bloggers were beginning to understand and make use of their roles in emergency responses. Shifts in how people communicate in such a vulnerable time began, as more people turned to social media and bloggers. These bloggers found themselves imbedded in power and began to adapt their content to enhance the knowledgeability of the local citizens. This is clearly positive of social media which is even further advancing as more people understand its usefulness and power.
Furthermore, as we look towards the future it is clear that social media will only advance more. With blogs, online maps, wikis and other digital resources continuing to develop and actively cooperate in beneficial ways. Due to the shear devastation that the lack of communication caused in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina we now understand the importance of communication much better. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how fragile our communication systems are and how severe an impact that can occur if they fail. Therefore, disaster-resistant communication systems are now being developed for the future. One of these includes a citywide Wi-Fi mesh which is a self-correcting network of providers that are all connected, the nodes are small, durable and have a backup battery powered system which can keep them running for many days. This however is only useful alongside social media which is the main communication system is there is no mobile signal. If in the future people can always access social media no matter how tragic their situation then help and support will unquestionably improve.