Tsunami generates huge wave of social media activity

Thankfully, Saturday’s great Hawaiian tsunami scare turned out to be little more than a splash of excitement. But the online wave of activity leading up to the 11 a.m. (Hawaiian time) anti-climax left news hounds and social media aficionados awash with options for staying informed. You could monitor the tsunami build-up through the eyes of experts (the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center) or through the 140-word thought-spurts of sometimes-insightful, sometimes-lame keyboard observers (Twitter hashtags #tsunami, #hitsunami or #hawaiitsunami), or through streaming video of media outlets in affected areas.

On real TV, I was toggling between CNN and MSNBC (no Fox for me) and had a tab open to two online Hawaiian media outlets. Hawaiinewsnow.com, apparently a joint venture of the local CBS and NBC affiliate (anyone know how that works?), had, by far, the best coverage of what was happening in Hawaii, including a live shot of Hilo Bay, with expert analysis, as the waters receded and filled back in several times over. CNN had the best analysis of how the waves were spreading from Chile across the Pacific (although the CNN host bordered on obnoxious).

Overall, the extensive media and social media build-up almost led me to expect I would see a huge wave form and wipe out buildings along Waikiki Beach. Although the small wave action was a letdown from a strictly news-hound point of view, I was certainly glad to see the event resolve itself without any damage or injuries.

Two of the best social media comments I read online were from the same person (who I do not know), Erick Straghalis, on Mashable:

  • “There have been these events for centuries… we’re so connected that we hear about everything instantly. It feels like things are getting worse, but really, it’s the constant availability and instant technology that gives us so much information! 20 years ago, we would have heard about this briefly on the evening news — a side note to the Olympics.”
  • “Have family and friends in Hawaii, Chile and Central America — it’s been great to get information straight from the source, streaming, twitter, facebook, etc… instead of waiting for CNN to pick up feeds or general information. I can hone in on the information that’s important to me, not just what CNN picks and chooses.”

A few other quick thoughts about the role of social media on Saturday:

  • Mashable came through again, putting together a great package of streaming video, Twitter feeds and other live online coverage of the tsunami scare.
  • As the event unfolded, I discovered through Facebook that two of my friends were vacationing in Hawaii. One was keeping us informed of what she could see from the 15th floor of a hotel on Waikiki. I was very happy to hear that she, like everyone in Hawaii, was safe.
  • It’s now time to turn our attention to Saturday’s real tragedy, and organize to help the victims of the tragic Chilean earthquake. Mashable already has come through again with a comprehensive page on How to Donate to Chile Earthquake Relief Online, including options for texting donations.
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