A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Social Media and Hurricane Sandy

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

We’re thinking good thoughts for all those who have been hit hard by Sandy. I’m very glad to have been upstate when the storm hit, but not entirely sure when I’ll be back in our New York office.

In the meantime, two very different slices of social media activity during the storm, both from Forbes.com.

First, is Hudson Valley Weather. I’m not a huge Facebook fan. It’s very much a spectator sport for me. (One of the great advantages of living in New York state is that it’s NOT a swing state, so we usually aren’t subject to the worst of the political advertising. Facebook doesn’t care where you live. Everyone’s got an opinion. Nobody’s got a fact checker …)

But I do check in pretty regularly, and one of the biggest reasons I do is Hudson Valley Weather. It’s a hyper-local weather service that makes great use of Facebook as a platform. And during Sandy, they did a great job of keeping local area residents updated as the storm progressed. Not just changes in forecasts and predictions from the big weather bureaus, but information on local power outages, links to local power companies, streams of comments and photos from the community of “fans.” Truly social media at its finest and most useful. I’m not alone in these thoughts – neither are HVW’s 20,000 followers. Take a look at what Forbes.com has to say about HVW.

While you’re over at Forbes.com, take a look at this article about all the misinformation social media generated during the storm. From obviously fake photos to humorous fakes, from unsubstantiated statements of damage to silly links between politics and the storm, social media had it all.

(All photos from Twitter via http://www.christianpost.com/news/hurricane-sandy-photo-of-statue-of-liberty-one-of-many-fake-storm-photos-84134/)

Such is the nature of a (mostly) unregulated publishing platform. It can be messy and misleading. I’ll take that as a positive. I’ll take it as a great positive if social media’s unmediated nature makes everyone a bit more skeptical of what they read and hear. That’s a long shot better than blindly swallowing what the mainstream media present without ever asking why something was published or what was left unsaid.

Hope everyone is safe and dry, or at least safe and drying out.


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