“With great power comes great responsibility”
While social media has proven to be extremely useful in many ways, Hurricane Sandy showcased how the tool can also be misused during times of uncertainty and panic.
According to New York Magazine, Hurricane Sandy is already being marked as a coming-of-age moment for Instagram, the photo-sharing service acquired by Facebook last year, which saw uploads of up to ten images per second tagged #Sandy during the storm. However, a lot of images shared before, during, and after the storm have been proven to be edited.
A poignant photo of soldiers standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a picture of a giant wave slamming into the Statue of Liberty and pictures of sharks swimming in the streets of N.J. all flooded the internet. None of them were true.
These images sometimes resulted in false reporting by major news outlets. A false report and edited photos that showed the 109-year-old building that houses the stock exchange flooded made such an impact that CNN reported the untrue information.According to USA Today, CNN spokesperson Bridget Leininger said that CNN referenced a National Weather Service report that turned out to be incorrect. The National Weather Service spokesperson said that they got the information from several local New York City media outlets who had posted it on Twitter.
As evidenced by this incorrect reporting, a simple picture can result in a multitude of falsities, all of which will eventually need to be corrected. Fake and edited pictures were abundant during Hurricane Sandy, and contributed to the panic that people were feeling across the country.
The Good Side – Relief Efforts
There were benefits of using social media during Hurricane Sandy. Many relief organizations publicized their efforts using various social media platforms.
Katie Benner, usually a writer for Fortune, created a Tumblr called Sandy Sucks in the aftermath of the hurricane. On it she posted a daily list of ways that people could help. It effectively connected people who wanted to help to ways that they could do so. Within four days of being created, Sandy Sucks had gotten 3,000 unique visitors
12-12-12 Sandy Relief Concert
The 12-12-12 Sandy Relief concert was jam-packed with social media elements. The hashtag #121212concert was used to promote the event. Various celebrities, including the performers at the event, were tweeting using the hashtag and posting pictures of themselves onstage. The hashtag was also scrolling across the screen as the concert was being broadcast live on 37 different networks in the U.S. and 100 overseas.
The 121212concert.org site had links to Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ where people could look for more information about the event. Members of the audience were encouraged to live-tweet during the concert using the hashtag.
Even though fake photos were abundant and some instances of false reporting occurred, I think the majority of the social media used during Hurricane Sandy was positive. It made it easy for people to find out what was going on, and help with relief efforts if they wanted to. The 12.12.12 Concert was a huge success, raising about $50 million for hurricane relief efforts, according to The New York Times.
Hurricane Sandy proved that when it comes to social media, you have to take the good with the bad.