I have to admit I’m pretty impressed. On Monday night when I’m writing this the Internet is completely ablaze with storm content. I actually can’t find tweets about anything else on Twitter. Well, American Twitter, I’m sure I could find thousands of tweets about European politics or whatever the Japanese use Twitter for. I’m sorry, I just checked and the number one trending topic on Twitter is Monday Night Football. In fact four of the top ten are about the football game along with the hashtag for National Text Your Ex Day. We sure are a nation of asses.
I’m sure in the coming days (even between now and when this is published remember to give me credit) the news media will go on and on about how this was experienced by all of us collectively via social media. The pictures that are showing up on Instagram are amazing. The video of the transformer exploding in Alphabet City is stunning. This is coverage that traditional media could never have gotten. Even the best photographers can’t be everywhere but now that everyone has a web-enabled camera phone the potential for getting great records of disasters like this has increased exponentially. You can even see footage of the building on eighth avenue with the façade falling off taken by the people who lived across the street with their cell phones. CNN is basically just a content aggregator at this point, a content aggregator with foolish reporters standing in the brunt of the storm.
There is some worth in having someone filter out the signal from all that damned noise. A friend of mine made a photoshop Monday morning of Grand Central Terminal filled completely with water with a shark swimming in it. 12 hours later and people are passing it off as real and, worse, people are buying it. People of the United States of America, I assure you if giant sharks were swimming through protected landmarks in midtown Manhattan they would be cutting in to Monday Night Football to cover it. They would be cutting in to every show on every channel everywhere in the western world. You would not be finding out from Tumblr.
I sincerely hope we’ll also get stories about how social media helped people stay safe or was used to organize relief and rescue efforts. That we’ll see people passing along useful information or even just kind words to give aid and comfort to displaced people or people without basic services. I would like all those things to happen but I’m pretty sure the Internet will be back to cat pictures and political rants from people who are on the outward fringes of any particular issue. If we’re very lucky maybe the issue this time will be federal disaster relief.