Facebook may be worth Billions, but in the face of adversity, it is Priceless!

In early 2011, I posted this article on Facebook.  I wanted to post this on the blog as a reminder of how social media has helped so much in times of disaster.
“Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them”.
Today I “like” this statement from Facebook's website, and it could never be more true than it is now. Only, we need to add “especially in times of natural disaster” to the end of it.
Here is my original post… 

I didn't sleep well last night. I am still wired from the events of the day, and unable to wipe the images from my mind of people caught in a horrendous natural disaster, the loss of life and the complete devastation across 75% of my state, Queensland, Australia”. 

It's a state that is nearly 6 times the size of the UK, 4 times the size of Japan and more than twice the size of Texas. 

There is an eerie chill in the air across Queensland, despite the humidity that still lingers, and we can all feel it. 

It's the chill of Anticipation.  Anticipation of what is yet to come. The Anticipation of the hell that is about to be unleashed as the floods have already started to reach the City of Ipswich and our Capital of Brisbane. 

As if Toowoomba wasn't enough, with a virtual inland tsunami wiping out the centre of the city and taking lives.

As if entire townships going underwater wasn't enough”.

As if the loss of lives wasn't enough”.

Now we wait for more of what is probably the worst flood in more than 100 years.  

It happened in 1893. It happened in 1974.

How will we remember 2011?

I may not know the answer to that question yet, but I do know one thing.  Yesterday the people of my state connected. They connected not only with “friends who work and live around them”, but they really connected.

They inspired, they supported, they comforted, they updated, they commiserated, they asked “are you ok?”.

They even sometimes celebrated the little things.  

And while all that connection was going on, facebook, twitter and social media truly showed their combined worth.  They helped the connection to happen.

In what was a day of uncertainty, of pouring rain, of frantic phone calls, of missing loved ones, of lives lost, of blocked roads and evacuations, something became very clear to me – How could we possibly have kept ourselves so well updated and so well connected without the use of social media? 

Yes, television, radio and phones are wonderful, but with social media going mobile, we are able to communicate, connect, engage with others”, without electricity and from anywhere that still gets a mobile signal.

I shudder to think how blindsided Queenslanders must have been in 1893 and even 1974. We are very lucky to have the technology that allows us to connect like we do. 

Personally it was not the television footage or the radio that I was glued to all day. It was the live feed of the Queensland Police Service that I kept one eye firmly fixed upon – as well as the comments and engagement of the Queenslanders following the same service as me.

I have never seen so much traffic on Facebook as I have in the past few days.  We chatted. We instant messaged, we posted on walls, we commented and we liked. 

We “liked” the Queensland Police Service for their amazing up-to-the minute posting of the facts.  We “liked” midwives posting that they were offering their services free to pregnant mothers trapped and unable to reach hospitals. 

We “liked”posts of love and support. 

We “commented” on the photos, the videos, the testimonials about the disaster unfolding.  We “commented” on our friends walls.  We “commented” on the facebook pages dedicated to the floods” and we responded to frantic calls for help with immediacy.

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This I “like”.

This week, we have used Facebook in a way that showed its true worth. So, Mark Zuckerberg, I say this to you:

Right now, your little project is not worth billions.  It is completely priceless. And it will remain priceless over the coming days, as we become more and more physically cut off from each other, yet able to connect better than we have ever connected before in times of crisis.

Sure, we may complain about facebook from time to time, and talk about how much time we waste on it or how some of us are finding the new profile change confusing at first, but right now it is being used as a lifeline for people in real time.  

When towns are needing to be evacuated, the police can tell us en-mass.

When a message really is urgent, the facebook community makes it viral. 

When electricity is cut off, we are given immediate notification.  

When our friends are in need, they can reach out to ALL of their mates at the same time with one post. 

When our friends are announcing that they are safe, they can announce it on the newsfeed. 

When people want to donate goods or money, they are immediately given the instructions about how and where to do it… from 14 different people!

I wrote all of this last night at midnight when I couldn't sleep. So I apologise for the length, but I decided to leave it unedited.

Just as I was re-reading it and wondering whether to share it, or to keep it for personal musing-sake, I saw on the newsfeed that the Queensland Police Service had just announced the Bruce Highway open for traffic again between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

You see, one of our good friends got flooded in here yesterday and had just gone to bed at midnight in our spare room wondering if he would get home to his little girl for her 1st birthday today in Brisbane.  I was able to tell him the good news moments later.

The rain has held off and my friend set his alarm early and is on his way to Brisbane as I write this, to hopefully (fingers crossed) spend time with his daughter and family.

It's just a little thing, but one of the many little things that Facebook (and social media) has done in the past days for our state.  And probably one of many things that it will continue to do for our state over the next few days.  

A state that is now 75% underwater. 

Thank you Queensland Police Service, and thank you Mr Zuckerberg.  It is going to be a long few days as we pray for the safety of everyone in Queensland, but the services you have provided for us are without a doubt, priceless.

What about you?  How have you used Facebook, or other forms of social media to keep connected during the floods or other natural disasters?

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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is a Visual Content Strategist and founder of Socially Sorted, listed by Forbes as a "Top 5 Social Media Blog You Need to Know About". Donna helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc. & Entrepreneur and she is a speaker and trainer on visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.

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