Twitter, Facebook become lifelines after Japan quake

Social networks at their best as people turn to them after massive quake, tsunami

Once again, social networking sites Twitter and Facebook are proving to be lifelines in times of crisis.

A devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and then a tsunami rocked Japan early Friday morning. The double disaster is reported to have killed hundreds across Japan, and hundreds more are said to be missing.

And the quake and tsunami caused massive damage to buildings and roads, as well as electrical blackouts and intermittent cell phone service.

With so many people unable to physically get to family and friends or to even reach them on the phone, countless people in Japan and around the world took to Twitter and Facebook to reach out to loved ones today.

"Social communications, like Twitter, and social networking sites, like Facebook, are at their best when big news is breaking," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

"They are the means available to almost everybody to broadcast information, to communicate one-to-many," he said. "And, in some cases, they help get around bottlenecks in one-to-one communication."

An hour after the quake hit Japan this morning, Online Social Media, which tracks social media services, reported that Twitter was experiencing 1,200 tweets being posted every minute. And at most times today, eight or nine of Twitter's top 10 Trending Tropics -- such as #prayforjapan, #tsunami and #japan -- were directly related to the earthquake and tsunami.

Organizations and relief efforts also are taking to Twitter, posting information about everything from emergency phone lines for non-Japanese speakers to tsunami alerts, altered train schedules and lists of shelters for those left homeless.

On Facebook, people not only posted thoughts and prayers for the people of Japan, but used their updates to tell friends and family where they are and how they are doing. Facebook Pages like Japan Earthquake also popped up, grabbing nearly 3,000 followers in about 12 hours.

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said today really does show social networks at their very best. "The No. 1 trending topic on Twitter right now concerns the 90999 text message number for Red Cross relief," said Shimmin, who calling sites like Twitter "lifelines."

"From what I've seen today, social networks have brought out the best in people, encouraging them not only to take action but also supporting them in those efforts to bring relief to the victims of this catastrophe," he said.

"While there are so many technologies at this time that isolate us from our fellow beings, social networking tools have shown their ability once again to unify us as human beings, and to bring out what is most altruistic and empathetic in our natures," Shimmin added.

This isn't the first time that people have turned to Twitter and Facebook during trying times. The social networking sites became lifelines for people during the massive earthquakes in Chili and Haiti last year.

They also were key communication tools during the 2009 government crackdown in Iran, as well as when a U.S. Airways plane made an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags internetFacebooktwitterWeb 2.0 and Web Apps

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?