When I turned on my computer today, I immediately found out about the earthquake in the Pacific. Simply everyone was talking about it! And with everyone, I don’t just mean the big news outlets but normal people like you and me.
The usual chatter about iPhone applications, differences between new browsers and other geeky hairsplitting was virtually absent.
Suddenly it seemed that the only thing on a multitude of (very different) people’s minds was only to contact their friends in Japan or simply sending best wishes and prayers.
This is why I love the Internet.
Charlie Sheen, funny pictures of cats and all of that sure appear as a nice distraction and some think this is the true face of the Internet: infinite dumps of basically meaningless, ultra-shortlived information, replicated ad infinitum.
But on days like this, I am reminded that the Internet can be, indeed, a powerful switchboard for genuine care.
Google has opened a special page dedicted to the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami complete with a tool designed to help find missing persons and Youtube has overlayed all (!) of its pages with a banner, spreading videos made by eye-witnessses on the ground.
On the other hand I have read several people complaining about how traditional mainstream media (mainly TV) are treating the events: A CNN anchor was accused of ‘giggling and talking about monster movies while showing waves sweep entire homes away’ or other simply didn’t like the fact that they were ‘replaying the same clip as if it was live’.
While I can’t confirm if the story of the CNN-anchor is true at the moment, the rumour is going viral, together with a suggestion to go to Al Jazeera instead, which might express a growing distaste for traditional Western-centric media. [Update: It seems to be hoax. Nevertheless, as Clinton pointed out in a speech, there is a serious worry that the Americans are “losing the information war.”, whatever that is supposed to mean.]
While so far I have received note that my friends and acquaintances in Japan are somewhat safe, I continue to send my best wishes to everyone affected by this major catastrophe.
When nature strikes, it doesn’t ask for your religion or nationality.
Hopefully, we will learn something from it.