So maybe us East-coasters are a little pampered when it comes to natural phenomenon (thunderstorms freak many of us out), but the vast majority of us felt that 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Virginia and fanned out along the coast this afternoon.
Instead of turning to our local news or even the U.S. Geological Survey website, however, we did what we do best – we tweeted about it.
Minutes after I felt the tremors shake my desk at about 1:53pm ET, I grabbed my smartphone and tweeted (from the safety of a door frame) about the strangely shaking ground.
Incredulously, I watched the dozens of tweets asking if anyone had just felt the earthquake pour in on my timeline. And these were not just people in the Toronto, Canada area: I was seeing tweets from people I follow who live in Washington, New York, and Boston.
I did a quick Google News search, and nothing. Checked the USGS’s website, nothing. Nope, for the first few minutes, all us Twitter folk had was each other, all equally perplexed, confused, and curious.
By about 2:05 some mainstream media had begun to pick up the story, especially those publications in the regions affected by the quake. But it was in those first few minutes that I really felt how connected we all are because of technology like Twitter.
There were reports of people not being able to call immediately after the quake, but being able to access the internet and tweet about it. Twitter’s open and instant nature made it possible for people to piece together just what had happened.
By 2:20 #earthquake had made it to the trending topic list within both the Toronto region and the US region, and the US region also had “A 5.8″, “NW of Richmond” and “SW of DC” trending. I’m sure more will hit throughout the day.
As my fellow editor Neil Vidyarthi of Social Times wrote, Twitter has become the go-to place for information about things happening around you, right now. And although there are plenty of meta questions about its business model, longevity and user retention, we’re both in agreement that this is where Twitter’s true power lies.