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Social Media as a Lifeline

While habitually watching Good Morning America this week, I heard several instances of a compelling phrase in conversation around the recent natural disasters in Japan. “Social media as a lifeline.”

Individuals and organizations are harnessing the power of social media for relief efforts more than ever before. From posting emergency numbers, to relaying important contact information, identifying shelters, and asking for help – these Japanese victims have found that channeling a real-time social media platform can have an incredibly significant impact.

Twitter, Facebook and Skype, most substantially, have proven to be a vital link in keeping families in touch during and after the wrath of the earthquake and tsunami. With power failures, road blocks and building damages, these online platforms were, to some, their only connection to the outside world.

An incredible story – Megan Walsh tweeted at journalist/anchor of TODAY, Ann Curry, after news of the disaster broke, “My sister American English teacher is missing in Minamisanriku. Please help with any news of evacuees.” “I will do my best,” Curry tweeted back. And she did. Curry researched and found Walsh’s sister, Canon Purdy, at the middle school where she was teaching. She facilitated a phone call to reconnect the family. You can watch the video of this moving story here.

We saw the first big push of social media as a platform for crisis outreach and communication during the Haiti earthquake, just over one year ago. A single White House tweet helped raise multi-millions in donations to help Haitian victims. This even further signifies how the power of real-time social media platforms, like Twitter, have significantly changed the way the world communicates.

Follow @RedCross on Twitter to learn how you can help.