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?
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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!