Social Media an Important Channel for Communication After Disaster in Japan

Last week, I flew through Tokyo on one of the first flights allowed though the Narita airport after the earthquake, and had an underlying sense of fear the whole time. After one month without access to television or the Internet, I returned to the United States and spent my first days back catching up on news, most of which was on the aftermath of the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan.

What surprised me was that in spite of the earthquake, Japan’s Internet was still available, which allowed for the widespread use of social media by survivors to let loved ones know that they were okay. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo encouraged U.S. citizens in Japan to update their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace) and to use SMS texting to let family members know they were okay. ‘Facebook stories’ was also a popular platform where families and loved ones connected and let each other know they were okay.

What’s more, it’s easier for Google developers to come out quickly with a tool, such as it did during the revolution in Egypt and now the earthquake in Japan, to make it easy for people with Internet access to find loved ones, with its Person Finder tool. Google’s Crisis Center shows a map of the earthquake, the latest related news and lists link to warning centers, disaster bulletin boards, and train and blackout information.

All of these tools that are making communication easy during the crisis in Japan wouldn’t be available without the Internet. The same tools that we use to share photos of our most recent trips or connect with old friendsare proving to be a timely and efficient resource for communication during crises.

See some of the platforms that connected people worldwide here: