Tweeting Till the End

Tweeting Till the End

By: Alison Henderson

It has been a month since storm Sandy sliced through the east coast. With her ferocious devastation, she left an unsettling idea lingering in the empty New England air.

As each disaster stomps into our lives with growing fury and frequency, our tense unease lasts a little longer. We start to realize how lucky we were to scrape by once again.

I’m not suggesting that Hurricane Sandy is the spawn of the apocalypse, but power outages, gas shortages and general chaos have me feeling a little dismal.

I can’t help questioning the behaviors into which we fall. I’m referring to the live tweeting, phone charging and the #njopen hashtag on Twitter that allowed people to find businesses with useable wifi.

It makes me wonder how we’ll make it when the end really comes.

I’m divided. On the one hand, I know that in dire times, I would hate to be out of touch with the ones I love, or unaware of resources that could help me. Our technologically advanced means of communication proved to be an amazing instrument in this disaster. As New York Times blogger David Carr said:

“Twitter not only keeps you in the data stream, but because you can contribute and re-tweet, you feel as if you are adding something even though Mother Nature clearly has the upper hand. The activity of it, the sharing aspect, the feeling that everyone is in the boat and rowing, is far different from consuming mass media.”

With so much spending going to technology, this is clearly where we are as a culture. However, this instantaneous dispersion, acceptance and reliance on whatever is produced online gets dangerous. To put it simply: people lie. What’s the price we pay for the immediate, unconfirmed, viral spread of “news?”

So on the other hand, I find it a little off putting to know that this is how we might deal in dire situations. Is gathering around a generator like it’s a Black Friday sale to charge our cell phones our great survivalist instinct, or is it our preoccupation? If and when seismic disaster strikes, how will we respond?

More productive things to do during a disaster might include preparing a survival kit, saving your bath water or perhaps thinking of a way to survive without a power grid. If science has anything to show, it is that at some point the energy we so heavily rely on to send our Tweets will run out. My thought is we might want to turn the phones off and save the battery for the most optimal, critical time of need. That’s just a thought though.

There seems to be an air of impermanence. This is a momentary glitch in the routine of daily life. When the storm passes we will all get back in our cars, and watch our televisions, and tweet. For now it works, it’s a good thing, but that won’t be the case forever. When the end comes we will have to admit to ourselves that it is bigger than our devices, because at some point, whether it is the world as we know it, or the cell phones we depend on, everything will die.

Lots of news outlets covering this!



Huffington Post

CNN, too!

Photo: Never thought I’d see people charging things out of a truck, look at it closer