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Using Social Media To Tell Sandy’s Story

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Sandy may prove to be the first big weather event where so many people turned to social media to get a message across. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were the go-to sites even when the lights went out. Experts said that 62 percent of everyone online uses social media now.

When Sandy barreled onto the scene, social media users greeted her with open arms. “You know, social media has really just come into its own, where people are really comfortable using it, kind of know what it can and can’t do,” said Dr. Rita Kirk, a social media expert at SMU. She says one draw is the story of survival. “We want to identify with the person on the street. Maybe it’s somebody who’s decided to ride out the storm and they thought they were in a safe place.”

“We kind of want that authenticity of visuals that we don’t feel like we always get through the media,” Dr. Kirk added.

According to social media site Radian6, Sandy generated more than three million mentions on Facebook and Twitter this past week.

But, Dr. Kirk had a word of caution. While the mainstream media separates the wheat from the chaff, social networking sites do not. “There were so many fake stories out there,” she said. Have you seen the picture of sharks at the mall? It was Photoshopped. How about the photo of the swirling storm clouds over the Statue of Liberty? That’s been circulating online since 2005.

But Sandy has taught us that social media has an important place. Dr. Kirk speaks from personal experience. She said, “I was speaking to several of my friends in New York City last night. If you can say in 144 characters, ‘I’m okay. It’s raining outside. A little flooding.’ It’s much more useful than a long drawn out email.”

It’s not always just a matter of writing fast. In some cases, people in dire circumstances are just trying to conserve their batteries.

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