Social Media Saves Lives in Japan

After the earthquake knocked out television stations, many people took to social media channels to get news and information. There, millions first learned of the coming tsunami through pictures posted to Twitter, some terrifyingly depicting water rushing toward the photographer who was safely on high ground.

Immediately following the rushing water, many Japanese invited strangers on Twitter to join them in safety. CyberConnect’s Hiroshi Matsuyama tweeted, “there is a television, beverages and some food.” Matsuyama provided the studio’s address, saying there is enough space for about thirty people and asked for replies via Twitter.

The online gaming community was especially active. Katsuhiro Harada, a Tekken producer, tweeted that while everyone at his office is OK, his studio is a “wreck,” adding, “Aftershock again and again!” Xevious game designer Masanobu Endo tweeted how he thought a Roppongi Hills skyrise was going to topple over. Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima let others know he was okay and reached out to friends and family through Twitter. No More Heroes designer Goichi Suda warned others very early of the coming waters and asked his employees to take cover or return home. Last Guardian designer Fumito Ueda checked if others were okay. And, one Japanese game exec even apparently rescued a junior high schoolgirl, according to Kotaku.

Japan’s residents have been able to keep up with the new shelters that are opening around the affected areas through Twitter and Facebook as well, using Google maps and even FourSquare to help locate the shelters and loved ones.

Meanwhile through Twitter, Facebook, and Mixi, people all around the world have been getting instant updates on the statuses of friends and family, as well as send thoughts and prayers to those in need.

A trend of Twitter hashtags such as: #prayforjapan, #japan, #japanquake and #tsunami began appearing on most social networking and microblogging sites — some of which received thousands of tweets per second, according to

“While there are so many technologies at this time that isolate us from our fellow beings, social networking tools have shown their ability once again to unify us as human beings, and to bring out what is most altruistic and empathetic in our natures,”said Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis. “From what I’ve seen today, social networks have brought out the best in people, not only encouraging them to take action but also supporting them in those efforts to bring relief to the victims of this catastrophe,”Shimmin added.

Social and mobile media have also been the greatest source of monetary relief during this tragedy. The Red Cross is asking people to text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 directly to the Japan Red Cross. The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1895 To contribute, text ‘JAPAN’ or ‘QUAKE’ to 80888 to make a $10 donation.

Four other charities — CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada — have formed a group called The Humanitarian Coalition and began accepting donations Saturday. And, Global Disaster Relief on Facebook offers numerous ways people can help.

It’s great to see that the same web sites that can reunite you with your 7th grade boyfriend can also help save lives.

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