Continuing to Help Japan Through Social Media

By Lauren Haberkorn

When the word spread of the disasters in Japan, the whole world looked to do what they could to help. Years ago, helping others on another continent would have been difficult. Today, social media makes it easier to help out.

The organizers of SXSW, the annual music, film and emerging technology festival that takes place in Austin, Texas each year, sought to raise $100,000 by developing a special website aimed at meeting their goal: sxsw4japan.org. Not only did they reach their goal, they exceeded it, raising *$105,000 for relief efforts.

These examples of social media aimed at doing good, can be applied to any endeavor. Anyone can identify their community or audience, formulate a succinct and powerful message, and then use social media to send out that message in a matter of seconds. Though there are arguments against the benefits in social media, it can be proven that it has done many good things in today’s world. It is likely that an entire generation will continue to use social media to reach out to each other and make powerful changes in our world.

Not only is social media there for those willing to help, it made a powerful impact on the people directly affected by the disaster. When traditional modes of communication, such as telephone lines, were lost during the unfolding disaster, many victims of the disaster turned to social media to get in contact with one another. According to an article by Mashable.com, within an hour after the earthquake, tweets coming out of Tokyo reached 1,200 a minute,

Social media gives victims a voice, helps them find information and provides the public with ways to help. After the Haitian earthquake last year, U.S. Google developers created Person Finder for families searching for loved ones. This program was then adapted for victims of the New Zealand earthquake, and now for the victims affected in Japan.  SparkRelief, a non-profit site to assist victims of natural disasters, was also established and launched within days after the Japanese crisis unfolded.

Social media can also make donations that much easier through the use of cell phones. Those looking to contribute $10 to the cause can do so by texting the phrase “REDCROSS” to 90999. The Red Cross created a Facebook campaign, allowing users to donate and easily access information as it develops. Those who use games on Facebook such as CityVille, FrontierVille, or FarmVille also have the chance to donate through these programs, and even the social gaming company Zynga created Save the Children’s Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund to promote the cause.

As the donations for Japan multiply by the second, and as the families of victims found on Person Finder, Twitter, and Facebook will attest, social media provides a wonderful tool to reach out and help others in need around the globe.

*Figure listed by http://www.sxsw4japan.org as of the time of this writing.

Lauren Haberkorn is a junior studying Corporate Communication in the Diederich College of Communication
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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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