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“Communities are relying on social media during a disaster”
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“Communities are relying on social media during a disaster”

Newspapers and government agencies are right to embrace social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, as legitimate forms of information provision during natural disasters, writes 25-year-old Aletha Nightingale from Australia.

The use of social media applications as a means of communication has flourished during the last five years. Recently, a new use for social media has been discovered in the form of providing information, news and updates.

In particular, there has been a significant rise in the use of social media to deliver information during and after a natural disaster.

This has fundamentally challenged the way mainstream media providers traditionally supply information in such an event.

The prominence of social media in this way was obvious in the recent natural disasters experienced in Australia. Both Twitter and Facebook applications were used to provide timely advice and information to community members about the floods experienced in Brisbane and Tropical Cyclone Yasi.

According to a study by the Arc Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, the @QPSmedia (Queensland Police Service Media) Twitter profile accounted for almost 70 per cent of tweets relating to the Brisbane floods during the disaster period

A smart phones can be a person’s main communication means in a natural disaster as it is often the case that traditional communication methods, including, landline telephones and televisions, are inaccessible due to the failure of electricity.

Increasingly, communities affected by a natural disaster rely on internet connections to retrieve information about a natural disaster. Not only are communities relying on social media for information during a natural disaster, they are embracing it as a means to rally support and assist those in need.

During the Brisbane floods, a number of Facebook websites were developed that outlined the highest affected areas and requested volunteers to assist. These sites proved extremely successful – in minutes of posting these areas were inundated with volunteers.

So what does this change mean for mainstream media providers and the humble newspaper? It’s time for media conglomerates and government agencies to embrace social media as a legitimate form of information provision and for discussion of recent events.

Many of these media providers already have accepted this form of communication, although financing is still an issue. This new era of information and community interaction offers an exciting future.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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