Killing time used to be reserved for Chinese checkers, crocheting or even…dare we say it, reading a book. But it’s 2011 and these days people kill time with social media. So it makes sense that during this year’s epic snowstorm, many stayed hovered around their laptops and iPhones to stay connected to the outside world. It started out simple enough, with “Snowpocalypse” themed Facebook groups that provided an outlet for griping, photos of snowmen and even bored hipsters playing the ukulele.
But social media served to help more than those just suffering from boredom.
Thousands of stranded travelers in airports relied on frequent social media updates to stay informed of flight cancellations, weather conditions and airline policies. A mayor in New Jersey used Twitter to connect with local residents trapped by the storm and gathered a team of citizens together to help those in need.
On a larger scale, open-source software like Ushahidi that was originally used as a crowdmapping tool during elections in Kenya is now being used for “Snowmageddon” clean-up efforts, providing a service by which people can seek or offer help, featuring an interactive map with reports such as road blockages, plows needed and even impromptu snowball fights that are taking place.
So in addition to providing some comedic relief and a place to vent, Facebook, Twitter and a slew of other social networking tools were used to establish a much-needed public service.
The storm will eventually pass, but it’s clear that online communities are here to stay. (And we think that’s a good thing!)
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