People make 140 letters priceless
Recent travel chaos confirms the power of social media in real world situations.
The last seven days have been notable, not simply for the short term chaos caused to air travellers, but also for highlighting just how much we have come to rely on social media for news and even tangible help. Shortly after traditional media began reporting on the volcanic ash cloud and the closing of huge chunks of European airspace, Twitter users began generating a running commentary on what was happening to people and where. As airports progressively closed across northern and western Europe, the twitterati were quickly able to communicate various rumours. Shortly after, through the use of hashtags it became possible to find like-minded people keen to carpool and help share the burden. Tags used included #getmehome, #ashtag and #volcano. Of course none of this would be possible without smartphones and data connections, but this is only half the story. The engine room that makes Twitter tick is the army of people who participate in the community, and the sizeable portion of those who actively look for ways to help each other. These last few days have shown just how useful the service can be for disseminating information. But the volcano also highlights just how critical the human factor is in turning a useful online service into a real-world lifesaver for millions of stranded travellers.