COM0015: Assignment #1, Blog Post #4 – Out of the Box (Tara MacDonald)

When an 8.1Ms earthquake struck Nepal last April, I found out about it through Facebook. Facebook was also the first place that I checked to find out if my friends living, working or traveling in the area were safe.

The April 2015 Nepal Earthquake (also known as the ‘Gorkha Earthquake’) marked the first major test for Facebook’s Safety Check feature, which was rolled-out last October. The feature prompts users located in dangerous areas to send a notification to Facebook friends and family that they are okay. For many Facebook users, such as myself, it was our first introduction to the new feature and how it’s used.

According to a post by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, more than 7 million people used Facebook’s emergency Safety Check feature. That’s almost a quarter of Nepal’s entire population (27.8 million). To give some perspective of how important this new feature is, let’s take a look at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC has a missing persons database where people can:

  • Search through the list of missing persons and of those who have responded that they are alive,
  • Register names of persons who wish to inform others that they are alive, and
  • Register names of persons with whom they have lost contact.

Before anybody goes off on a tangent, the ICRC does incredible work around the world and their missing persons registry has helped locate countless people who were missing as a result of war or disaster. Nevertheless, the number of people registered on the ICRC missing persons registry for Nepal currently stands at 886.

While many criticize Facebook’s Safety Check feature, it can’t be denied that they were able to do something that our aid agencies and governments don’t yet have the ability to do. We now live in a time when social media outranks traditional news and information sources. With more than 1,415 million active users, Facebook is the most powerful social media platform in the world. Within the first 24 hours after the initial earthquake, I learned that 5 of my friends were alive and ‘safe’. That wouldn’t have been possible without Facebook.

How do you feel about Facebook’s Safety Check feature?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This article was written as a requirement for COM0015: Applied Social Media in Business. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

4 thoughts on “COM0015: Assignment #1, Blog Post #4 – Out of the Box (Tara MacDonald)

  1. Interesting to read this. I had a friend who was in Nepal, and disappeared for a few days. We ended up hearing from one of her co-trekkers’ friends in BC on Facebook that she was alright, just without communication devices.
    It was a very emotional period for everyone involved; as we were there on Facebook, every few minutes, refreshing and hoping to see more comments or activities on her page.

    • Hi Nelly, I’m glad to hear that your friend was okay. It certainly can be stressful waiting to hear from friends, family, colleagues, etc… I was doing much the same as you were after I found out about the news, and then as the aftershocks happened. That said, social media has certainly facilitated efforts to reach people. The memories of how I felt after the Bali bombing and the Tsunami remain fresh in my mind. A lot more needs to be done but I feel this is a step in the right direction.

  2. It’s definitely quite the tool to be able to let everyone know you’re okay, but I do also remember seeing some abuse the system. People I know have never left the country were checking in on line. I suppose however this is simply what happens what the internet and I look forward to seeing more of these sorts of tools deployed across various social media platforms.

    • Hi Jeremy, Yes. there was some abuse. I noticed that also. However I think that’s more a reflection of poor user behavior than the tool itself. Hopefully they will take measures to prevent abuse. I think the potential is very interesting and – like you – look forward to seeing how existing tools – and new ones – will be used in future. P.S. Just a few weeks left – great to have you as a classmate and all the best to your future success!

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