Social Media’s Role during Natural Disaster Times -By Sadia Bintee Shajahan
Social media refers to online tools that allow any internet users to create and publish content, exchange information and ideas in virtual network. In social media, people find others with similar interests and share information and knowledge. Actually it is about connecting with the various people and building relationships. Though most people tend to think that social media is a platform where people only pass their leisure time. But, at the time of every disaster that hits our world, we see another use of social media. We find it as a key of help. Soon after the every attack social media turn on its magic.
The utility of social media goes far beyond. The hashtag began treading online with people offering whatever they could. Young volunteers raise fund for affected people through Facebook. They share the photos of affected areas and peoples and open event for raising fund. Emergency worker and volunteers are using media to find the map, damaged areas and organize relief efforts. Mobile communication included social media remain viable platforms, because the small amount of data needed to communicate. Presently, general public are increasingly comfortable with the various mode of social media and adept at navigating them. As a result, it is easy for us to get updates in any moment. Like, Facebook enabled its safety check feature. People, who live in the affected area or near the area, immediately mark themselves as they are safe or not, so that their friends and family could know they are alive and safe.
Additionally, good news is that, researchers have now started publishing data via social media in disaster. People from all over the world can learn about real data through it. On the other hand, it plays vital role on emergency help from the people and other governmental efforts. Social media provides the ideal opportunity to attract funds for relief efforts. Sometime, relief workers arrive on the scene of a disaster before news reporters. Another issue we noticing is that, many online news portal or newspapers are collecting the information from social networking site, like Facebook.
Social media also helps us to prepare for disasters. We are using same things for day to day that we would use in emergencies. By using social media, we learn how to be alert and prepare for safety during disasters. Helpline numbers and how to contact with government forces, share in the social media during the disasters. People learn and spread it for others. On the of disaster, people are using tools like Facebook to post messages about needing help rather than picking up the phone and making several calls. They ask help by posting on Facebook.
A deadly flood happened in our country recently. As per newspaper reports, flood hits more than twenty districts of Bangladesh. Countless people were affected and at least five people have died every day. On this situation scrolling on Facebook, twitter we noticed that general people from safe zone do their best to help the affected people financially. Many are making group and create events in social networking site. They donate their money and time for the affected people.
Recovery and resilience go hand in hand. By using social media community can do recovery help and also can provide information to responders what they want through. Facebook, Google and many social companies also provide specialized service to help aggregate and share such key information in crisis situation. Now average people are carrying smart phones that have cameras and recorders. So it is very easy to be a mini journalist and provide information and awareness to the people. It certainly shouldn’t replace our current system but often time it can help in the process by providing supplemental information.
There are also some disadvantages of social media in the time of disasters. We have to live in the society with different mindset people. Bad intentional people are everywhere. Sometime they post potentially false information about a major event and it can be related with money. Like they raise money for by the name of wounded people but they themselves embezzle. So everybody should judge before giving money in anyone’s hand.
Writer: social activist and prolific writer.