Coming Together (Online) During Disaster
During trying times, people often look to each other for comfort and support. Thanks to the internet, a form of comfort and support comes from being connected and informed.
Hurricane Harvey barreled through Houston in late August, and with Hurricane Irma making her way through Florida after devastating the Caribbean islands, it’s been an overwhelming several weeks of natural disasters in the western part of the world. Times of global peril serve as important reminders of the necessity of communication and support during and after disaster, and shed light on the outlets and platforms that take efforts to bring comfort through connection and information.
The New York Times, a subscription-based news outlet since 2011, lifted its paywall in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, and worked with its digital marketing team to spread the news that information would be available to everyone. Clifford Levy, who oversees digital platforms at The Times, explained that, “it was really important that as many people as possible read these stories.” When safety — and life, even — depend on accurate and reliable information, it’s all the more essential that it be made accessible to all. Lifting the paywall illustrates the notion that knowing where, and what, to expect during disaster shouldn’t be a luxury; rather, it should be seen as a necessity and basic human right.
While news outlets have made efforts to provide the information, social platforms have helped to provide the tools for comfort through connection. During both Harvey and Irma, Facebook reactivated the “marked safe” function, where users in threatened areas could indicate that they and others are out of harm’s way. According to Fox, the Safety Check for Hurricane Irma was activated in the Caribbean on September 1. Relationships nowadays are global, and this simple way of sharing safety provides comforting reassurance to those worried about their loved ones.
These measures certainly don’t negate the severity of disaster, but they can provide ways to support those who are unfortunately affected.