How can social media save lives?

Social media and mobile technology are defining the modern world, but how many knew they were key to keeping people safe in a crisis?


While plenty of people will be used to taking to social media in times of personal crisis, new research has found that it actually has enough of an influence to keep the world safe in times of disaster.

It could put a bit of pressure on IT employees, as the infrastructure that supports these connections is key to sustaining communication in stressful situations.

According to research from Ben-Gurion University, while other telecommunications systems such as phone lines are easily taken out in natural disasters, the internet usually survives. Even if it doesn’t, the university reported that it’s often the first communications channel to find its feet in the chaos.

Not only is it one of the few able to remain functional during these events, the study found that it’s also one of the most trustworthy. As people flock to social media platforms to connect with each other, they also often provide correct accounts of what has gone on.

These informal accounts of the events and insights into which areas are safe also usually precede official announcements from the relevant organisations, meaning people get information that’s not only more accurate but delivered faster as well.

The university noted two high-profile incidents in recent years which were first announced on Twitter. According to the researchers, news of the Boston Marathon Bombing and Nairobi Westgate Mall Massacre hit the social media platform before they could be officially reported anywhere else.

An October 2013 article from USA Today confirmed these developments have been in the works for years now, with organisations catching on to the advantages of mobile technology in aiding disaster relief.

The article reported that some organisations were working on text systems that could send alerts to all phones in an area that was about to be – or had been – hit by a natural disaster or extreme weather occurrence.

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