It’s been said time and time again that social media is changing the landscape of how we receive news and share information. This has been evidenced convincingly with the role that social media has played in the breaking news and relief efforts for the recent devastating earthquake that hit the poor country of Haiti last week. This 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the capital city of Port-Au-Prince leaving the entire city without electricity, telephone service or cell service and upwards of 100,000 are feared dead. Many in the U.S. were left wondering if their loved ones in Haiti were okay. Enter social media. Some of the first correspondences made to government officials, U.S. Ambassadors and other U.S. citizens staying in Haiti were through Facebook statuses and Twitter updates. Some of the first pictures and videos of the destruction were posted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. CNN sent breaking news updates through Twitter. And yet- only 10 % of those living in Haiti have internet access.
In the aftermath that followed, these platforms have moved from reporting the news to supporting the relief effort. Groups on Facebook dedicated to finding the whereabouts of loved ones have members now in the thousands who have posted pictures of those missing in the hopes that someone will recognize them. The platform has even added a giving option to their most popular online game, “Farmville,” which is played by tens of millions worldwide. Participants can now buy the crop “white corn” with actual money and the proceeds all go towards a Haiti relief fund. Celebrities have been doing their part by taking to their Twitter accounts to raise money with tactics such as donating a dollar for every new follower. As always, the Red Cross is actively involved in the efforts and has made it unbelievably easy to donate by with a mobile giving campaign that’s raised over $20 million already. Simply texting the word “Haiti” to 90999 automatically charges $10 to your monthly phone bill and proceeds go straight to the Red Cross’ Haiti relief fund. The Red Cross has also gained more than 10,000 followers on Twitter since the tragedy
The overwhelming response can be contributed not only to the ease of donating but to the groundswell buzz social media platforms have generated. It’s been reported that more than 3% of blog posts are about the Haiti crisis and more than 1,500 Facebook status updates have containted the word “Haiti.” It’s hard to understand the devastation that has occurred but at least with social media, we can find more ways to help. If you haven’t already, please do your part and text, blog, retweet, Facebook, and most importantly, donate.