Of the many things that were hard about watching Hurricane Sandy from the West Coast, the worst for me was how easy it would have been to stop watching. But I couldn’t make myself turn off the Internet. I watched with my eyes wide open. And I’m glad I did, because I found ways to help.
Twitter is such a visceral force during an emergency like this. You can feel the fear swelling and the storm rushing in. It’s distracting. It’s stressful. But if it’s too much, you can lock your phone and go for a walk, and it’s 68 degrees and sunny out. And ahh, doesn’t it feel good to be off the grid, back in real life?
The Internet had a dark side during the hurricane, and it was easy to get sucked in. So many fake photos went viral that pros had to work hard to sort them out. Stupid trolls tweeted false information in a time of crisis, tricking journalists and social media managers into sharing it. It was gross.
The real news was bad enough. It was gut-wrenching to watch. I saw strangers and dear friends in trouble, and it was hard to concentrate on my airy Bay Area responsibilities. But I’m no good at disconnecting when something major is happening.
Appreciating The Simple Things
As the storm churned on, I started to see a new thread emerge from people in New York and other storm-stricken places. I realize it’s not representative of everybody, and I know that the very ability to tweet something like this means that the tweeter got very lucky compared to people in Staten Island or Red Hook whose neighborhoods were destroyed. But more and more people in my streams started expressing their appreciation for the forced disconnection from the media madness.
Then we began to organize. The Twitter channel @OccupySandy began to appear in my timeline. Occupy, that wayward, ground-up movement to fix our society, suddenly had a bright and worthy cause. I watched as the East Coast people in my life found help and found ways to help.
And then then off-of-the-Internet, into-the-streets spirit started to spread westward. Leah Reich announced a Red Cross blood drive in San Francisco that she, Heathar Champ, and Amber Costley are working to turn into a grand campaign with its own website. Now, thanks to their initiative, I can do more to help than retweet and blog. I can give actual blood from my body.
I have my reservations about being too wired in to virtual worlds, but all in all, after the too-real devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I’d say the Internet did a pretty good job.
Lead image via @OccupySandy