As Hurricane Sandy touched down on the eastern seaboard Monday night, uprooting trees, taking down power lines, and flooding millions of homes, people turned to social media sites to voice their opinions and share their stories. As people uploaded pictures and statuses, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit served as reliable news sources to locals in the area.
Whether they used social media to voice their complaints, communicate with loved ones, or to stay informed, Sandy was the second most talked about event this year, following the Super Bowl. What were people talking about? According to Mashable, “we’re okay” was the term mentioned most in conjunction with Hurricane Sandy. According to social insight company, Topsy, tweets with the hashtags #sandy and #hurricanesandy peaked on Monday night with approximately 2.9 million tweets. The term #sandy seemed to be a much more popular term than #hurricanesandy, with about 2.2 million more tweets on Monday night. Overall activity on Twitter also peaked on Monday night with about 300,000 users at 1 A.M.
Along with Twitter, Instagram experienced a surge of activity as people uploaded pictures of the damage and destruction with their phones. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, more than 244,000 photos were posted on Instagram with #sandy as a hashtag. More than 144,000 were posted under #hurricanesandy and another 23,000 photos under #frankenstorm. If you’re looking for a collaborated story of Hurricane Sandy told through images, look no further than Instacane, an aggregator of instagram photos with hashtags related to Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy hit very close to home. In fact, this picture was taken in my neighborhood of Flushing, NY. Employees of Path Interactive, residing in either Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, were all affected by the storm. We either lost power, internet, some of us lost all sources of communication, and some of us had family and friends who lost their homes and cars. Asfar Khan of Path Interactive captured some photos of the devastation done in Queens.
Areas in Lower Manhattan, such as Battery Park, were also hit hard by Sandy. Ruben Quinones of Path Interactive had a brother living in the area. Not able to contact his brother, he turned to social media and performed an advanced search on twitter for tweets containing “Sandy” and “Battery Park”.
If you’re a Redditor, you may have noticed a new subreddit, /r/Sandy. This subreddit currently contains topics ranging from FEMA and Mayor Bloomberg to pictures of NJ and an AMA (ask me anything) on someone who resided in Battery Park. For people who lost their homes in hurricane Sandy, Reddit may be a great place to communicate with other locals who also lost their homes in the destruction.
Sandy is still a hot topic on social media sites. Whether people are talking about the difficulty of getting gas, the 6-hour commute into the New York City, or the joy of finally gaining back their electricity, people are using social media to stay informed and keep friends/followers updated on the latest news. Although none of this comes as a surprise, it is interesting to see how powerful of a tool social media can be in such a time of chaos.