Mar 17, 2011 3:50 PM GMT
It's pretty amazing how far we've come with our devices. I personally have no use for Twitter but it's hard not to notice how some of these services like Facebook and Twitter that I've taken for granted as largely vanity web services, can quickly become vital at certain times (e.g. earthquake or revolucion anyone?)
When the earthquake hit northern Japan on Friday, voice calls from mobile phones became immediately unavailable in order to leave room for emergency calls. However, in the Kanto area, mobile Internet connection was mostly kept on, and many people turned to the Web to exchange information.
On Japan's main social networking site, mixi, some communities were set up soon after the quake to keep people informed. The largest one now has over 300,000 members and it has guides to communities by region and purpose.
Mixi also has a function that displays how recently your friends logged in, so you can check if your friends have accessed mixi after the quake. Another feature, ashiato (footprints) — which was once one of the key attractions to mixi — shows when another user viewed your page (profile/diary/message/etc). While it is possible to send messages to your most important family and friends, features that do not require any direct interaction meant that even those who are not close friends can see who is OK.
Twitter was heavily used as well. When most railways stopped in greater Tokyo on Friday evening, many office workers were isolated in central Tokyo and decided to either stay put or walk back home. A lot of assistance was offered over Twitter by stores, restaurants, campuses and even people in houses along main roads who tweeted that help was available. Twitter even set some official hashtags to help identify your tweet, such as #jishin (general earthquake information); #j_j_helpme (requests for rescue or other aid); #hinan (evacuation information); #anpi (confirmation of safety of individuals, places, etc.); #311care (medical information for victims). And although it is not official, #jishin_e seems to be used for English, too.