Social Media Plays Crucial Role in Chinese Earthquake

Mon 22 April 2013 17:10, Seema Sanghavi

This past weekend, many people were affected by an earthquake that took place in China’s Sichuan province. Saturday’s earthquake left at least 180 people dead, more than 11,000 injured and caused widespread damage across the region. By 10pm Beijing time that same day, there were 3 million posts on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and other social media websites with people trying to find help or reaching out to their friends and family living in the area. While rescuers and media rushed to the scene, China's social media users filled the information gap by posting photos what was happening on the ground.

Social Media Plays Crucial Role in Chinese Earthquake

Apart from highlighting what was happening on the scene and sending messages to loved ones, many Weibo users were able to take action and help speed up some rescue efforts. Users posted angry comments targeting the Chengya Freeway tolling station for slowing down the rescue efforts by still taking the time to charge fees. As reported on,when workers at the tolling station were asked to stop charging to speed up traffic, they responded by saying they did not get the authority to do so. After being bombarded by intense criticism via social media, orders were passed to cancel the toll. 


In addition to those affected in the earthquake, the Chinese government is also using social media as a tool for relief operations. According to Times of India, this is something that would have been less effective when an earthquake hit the same province 5 years ago. Although their involvement, the Chinese government is also being scrutinized. Many Chinese are asking why the Seismological Bureau failed again at predicting an earthquake. Considering this is the second major earthquake in the area in the past 5 years, some social media users have called on the government to do something about this and invest more funds into this science.

To help with the rescue and recovery efforts, Samsung and Apple are among the technology companies that have provided more than $32 million in donations. The Korean phone maker donated about $9.7 million and Apple pledged about $8 million. Either through their country website or via social media, both companies have used the internet to highlight their donations and express their sympathies.


As seen in many tragedies that occur around the world, social media has played a crucial part in getting up to date information to people. The medium has been able to save lives, reconnect people, give real time information on what is happening at the scene and spread awareness amongst other things. Whether we look at other recent tragedies such as the Boston Marathon or a past ones such as the Japan tsunami, social media plays a huge role in not only bring attention to the event but also in the rescue efforts. In my opinion, as more and more people around the world get access to the internet, use smartphones and spend time on social media platforms, the value these platforms bring in times of tragedy will multiply.






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