Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricanes, Social Media, and You.

Friend's photo, Toms River, NJ

For once, Florida was spared. Sandy was no longer considered a hurricane by the time it struck New Jersey where many of my friends live. Yes, I’m from there. Exit 2 off the PIP or exit 158 off the GSP; either one works.

I witnessed real life tragedy as stories unfolded before my eyes, non-stop devastation reported by my Facebook friends. Trees toppling over, howling wind, a historic boat shattered to bits, a favorite boardwalk of my youth crumbled into the ocean, an evacuation where people were already seeking higher ground on the third floor, a friend huddling in her basement posting on Facebook via her phone after losing power. Many lost electricity; one friend is without light until November 6!

Photo: Northjersey.com / Binghamton, Edgewater NJ
News services were posting too, yet their photos didn’t hold as much emotion as those coming from my friends. 

One exception is the Binghamton, a historic ferry boat that once floated passengers back and forth from the Jersey side of the Hudson to New York City and later served as a restaurant and night club. Shuttered in 2007 and rotting in the water and weather, Sandy smacked her hard and pieces of that vessel, which had earned a place in the National Register of Historic Places, are now strewn about in the water.

Photo: Jersey Shore Hurricane News, Seaside Heights Funtown Pier
I also looked in astonishment as photos of a pier on the Seaside Heights boardwalk were ravaged. The news said 50 feet of it. It was hard to tell what had happened via the photos posted during the storm, however, now that Sandy has passed, pictures are showing the roller coaster submerged in the Atlantic. 

Friend's photo of her deck: Hightstown NJ
Social Media, being the up-to-the minute medium that it is, brings us the play-by-play, with tales unfolding before us like a movie. Some folks posted several times, creating individual story lines. Some of my New Jersey friends know each other, others have never met. Yet in a strange way, they were all connected as they shared their individual experiences of the storm together.

Friend's photo, New Milford NJ
Friend’s posts relayed realism that the media at large did not capture as they focused on what would bring the most sensationalism including numerous photos of masses of submerged vehicles; in contrast, I saw trees in a friend’s backyard swaying and heard the wind that caused this. I saw a toppled tree that just missed hitting one of the structures in the garden apartment complex where a friend lives. I saw a saw a submerged staircase taken by a friend seeking shelter in a motel.

Friend's photo: Above 1st floor at a motel, Toms River NJ

Social Media from those I know upstaged much of the journalism. And this phenomenon of course, is not limited to disasters; it can be applied to other events and news as well. Would I be more likely to read about and see the photos from a friend’s recent attendance at a Presidential campaign stop or would I rather read it on CNN? 

We the people. Power to us! We can consider ourselves junior reporters. We are on the scene. Many of us have smart phones with cameras and video capability. We bring our opinions. We bring realism. All through social media.

In the 1970’s Bruce Springsteen sang about a gal with a certain name. Little did he know that she would wreak havoc on the city he sang about as well. For more from this proud Jersey girl, visit on the website, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Thanks for reading.


Renae said...

Nice write up Gerry. I, too, would rather get my photo's and real news from a friend...or family member. It means so much more...connected by heartstrings..across the miles...in some way. Well done my dear friend...well done!

Gerry Wendel said...

Thanks Renae!

Shannon Grissom said...

So grateful for the fresh perspective that social media can bring. Great post Gerry!