Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Princess Diana’s death — these three events might have played out differently had social media been as strong as it is now.
That’s not to say they wouldn’t have happened. But if nonprofits then had been able to access the same technology resources we have today, perhaps the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina wouldn’t have been so painstakingly slow and devastating. Families wouldn’t have waited nearly as long to be reunited after 9/11; not to mention, those who couldn’t turn to real-life support could have relied on digital communities. And today’s technology would have made it a lot easier to personally contact British friends as they mourned the loss of Princess Diana. Alas, we worked around the technological limitations of the time.
Today we turn to social media when an influential event occurs as a way to share our personal experiences and relate to the people most affected. It provides us with the reassurance that we’re not alone, but also gives us the opportunity to help.
Here are 10 moments in history affected by social media. How would social media have changed the outcome of other historical events? Let us know what you think in the comments.
The Hudson River emergency landing was one of the most famous instances of reporting via Twitter. Onlooker Janis Krums probably wasn’t anticipating he’d be the first to break the story when he snapped this shot with his phone. Nevertheless, he uploaded the photo to TwitPic while on the ferry to rescue the passengers.
After the election in Iran, Twitter became an integral content distribution tool for the Iran riots, whether through cries of opposition against candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi or updates about the violence taking place. The social network was so crucial to the people in Iran that Twitter rescheduled maintenance around the controversy.
After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, nonprofits used social media to mobilize rescue efforts and to support the community.
CrisisCamps was an organization created to bring together those who experienced the disaster and to organize relief efforts. The online community and activists created many different ways for concerned individuals to act immediately.
As soon as news broke of the Chilean miners’ rescue, so did television and online records. Social media buzz peaked at approximately 104,000 tweets per hour.
When Internet, SMS and broadcast TV was unavailable in Egypt, the international community relied on journalists for real-time updates on Twitter and Facebook.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times posted detailed updates to his Facebook page, alongside others who made similar pages in solidarity of the movement.
A record-setting 8.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan on Mar. 11, 2011. A disastrous tsunami soon followed, which prompted millions around the globe to scour social media for updates from loved ones.
On its Facebook page, Red Cross used the Causes application to raise over $25,000 toward relief efforts. Millions of people responded via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and many other social media platforms.
On May 1, 2011 Twitter exploded with the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Afterwards, the White House tweeted the news and President Barack Obama addressed the public.
It started with a YouTube video by hacker group Anonymous, later posted on the Occupy Wall Street Facebook. Within two days, traffic had reached critical mass.
Within 24 hours of the Sept. 16 Zuccotti Park occupation, roughly one in every 500 Twitter hashtags represented the movement, Reuters reported. By mid-October, Facebook listed 125 Occupy-related pages.
An Instagram gallery created by Chris Ackermann and Peter Ng allows users to share the stories they never got to tell in real time. The pair originally created Instacane in response to Hurricane Katrina, but they revived it this year, in time for 9/11’s ten-year anniversary.