Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Twitter, not twits

I was intrigued by the idea of Twitter when it first appeared on the scene, but was a bit reluctant to get involved, because.... well, I spend quite enough time plugged in to social media, thanks.

I finally gave in and activated my account a few weeks back, and waited to see what I would do with this new communication mode. Some of the tweets I read were amusing, many were yawn-worthy, and some I studiously ignored so as not to get involved in angry exchanges.

Businesses have been using Twitter and Facebook for some time, and I see the benefits, but I finally discovered one huge reason that justifies Twitter's existence. Emergency services use it to mass broadcast announcements in a very effective way.

During the recent (and ongoing) floods in Queensland and here in Victoria, folks have been madly retweeting messages about rising floodwaters, road closures and other useful information. They've also been offering assistance - things like food, accommodation, shelter for animals - and letting others know which supermarkets have food on the shelves, where emergency shelters are and so on. This info spreads faster than a bushfire through dry grass - especially when you have your account set up to send tweets to your phone.

I'm following the Victoria Police and CFA, plus ABC news, and the info has been invaluable. It makes me feel a lot safer, living in a bushfire-prone area too.

Who says social media is self-indulgent and superficial?

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