Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Can a social media platform where people blurt out their random thoughts in a limited amount of characters really be a tool for saving people’s lives?

Well, Twitter actually has saved lives. Surprisingly, this celebrity hub and hype machine is actually an integral communications tool for reaching out to individuals during incidents, disasters and events.

It may seem like a strange reaction to load Twitter in a potentially life-threatening situation. However, during my stay in Bali this August I experienced countless earthquakes. In fact, I arrived on the morning of the first major earthquake in Lombok which led to tsunami warnings being issued across Indonesia. I was woken up a number of times at around 1:00am by the building shaking, and with little understanding of the severity. Immediately, I would reach for my phone. Searching the internet for breaking news proved pointless, but Twitter always delivered.

During natural disasters like this it can be difficult to find out exactly what is going on in real time. However, Twitter’s capacity for instant dialogue ensures that all crucial information flows seamlessly. In order to quickly find out what was going on, all I had to do was enter #earthquake into the search bar and click latest posts. Instantly I could see the news about the severity of the earthquake, which helped me decide on my next steps. This tool became extremely important to me as at times I was staying in remote areas by the sea (some only accessible by foot), that would be badly affected by any tsunami. Whilst I was lucky, and Twitter didn’t need to save my life, it helped to put my mind at ease knowing that I was able to get hold of this information instantly.

But, there have been cases where Twitter actually has saved lives:

  • Kidnapping in Johannesburg -  A tweet of the license plate was circulated on Twitter and as a result the police were able to track down the car and save the victims life.
  • Hurricane Sandy hits the shores – Many people were missing so they used Twitter as a tool to share the victims exact locations. The Red Cross was then able to track where the victims were, and a lot of lives were saved.
  • Missing in the Swiss Alps – A member of a skiing group got completely lost during a snowstorm. The group utilised Twitter to ask for the victim’s phone number so that they could use location tracker on his mobile and was quickly found.

So, now you know. Twitter is more than just a way to express your views and keep up to date with the latest trends. It might even save your life.

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