Social Media In The Storm

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In times of tragedy, sometimes a Facebook “like” can make all the difference in the world.

Tupelo MS Tornado 2014

As most of you faithful readers of this website know, the JustUs Geeks are based and housed in Northeast Mississippi in the small town of Corinth, just a few miles from both the Tennessee and Alabama borders. We are incredibly fortunate to have ties in many communities in the towns and communities around our little base in Corinth.

One of those towns is Tupelo, MS, which is just a short drive south of Corinth. Some great friends of our show live and work in the Tupelo area, plus they have the closest Starbucks to us. Just a few hours ago a tornado ripped through several major areas of Tupelo, causing heartbreaking damage to homes and businesses. It’s incredibly surreal to know people personally who have lost their business or home; it seems like something that doesn’t ever really happen to you, just to people you see on television.

Word quickly spread this afternoon of storm damage along with viral videos of local weathermen and footage of the tornado carving itself into the north Mississippi clay.

And for a few moments after the all-out-hell of living through semi-trucks and roofs flying across neighborhoods and miles, there was calm. As people lifted their heads they began to learn of the destruction and started the horrible task of trying to locate those who mean the most to them.

In 2014 we are incredibly fortunate to have numerous ways of calling, texting, and locating those who we love the most. Unfortunately in many rural areas like Tupelo, Mississippi when a major event like today’s tornado occurs, your local cell service provider is completely overloaded with phone calls and text messages circulating their networks; calls and texts may have a difficult time going out or coming in.

While it may seem very clich√© at this point, taking to social media can be one of the most effective ways of communicating with or contacting someone you know who has been in harm’s way. I was pretty overwhelmed by the wall messages and information being shared among people this afternoon on Facebook, letting others know that they were okay. While it might take your network quite a while to squeeze a text message through, you seem to stand a quicker chance of using your traffic via a social avenue.

Luckily, the tracking of severe or significant weather is becoming more and more detailed, so it’s much easier to prepare for breakdowns in communication. In the event of an upcoming severe weather event it can be an important step to touch base with those you love beforehand to let them know how you’ll contact them, and that when you’re able you’ll contact them via your agreed method. While this might sound a bit cheesy, being creatively prepared during the aftermath of an act of God can bring a great deal of comfort.

Social media is also becoming an avenue for community awareness after significant events such as today’s in Tupelo. People are taking pictures of damage, rallying clean-up groups, and communicating with their local news outlets about where attention is needed the most. Average citizens are becoming first responders and points of contact simply by utilizing the device they use most during their daily routines.

Social media can also raise awareness for the severity of a situation, much like what happened in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, as well as the Boston Marathon Bombing; people on the ground and in the heart of a situation are using social services to display for the world just how dire their situation really is, and they can simultaneously begin to raise awareness of the situation.

It’s hard to imagine Facebook saving lives, but it, along with the other major social networks, offers users the ability to utilize their services no matter what situation they are in. Just remember that on days of disaster, the last thing you might ever think of updating could be the one thing that helps connect you with others in your situation, and those looking for your update in the midst of the storm.

About author

Josh Steen

Josh Steen is the founder of the JustUs Geeks, and is the host of the JustUs Geeks Podcast. Josh is also a dad, husband, and graphic designer. He geeks out over sports, video games, music, and Transformers. Have an idea for a story or podcast topic? Let him know via social media or email!

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