She Says

How Twitter transformed itself during #ChennaiFloods for me

The metamorphosis of the micro-blogging website from a rant-outlet to a help-outlet is what restores my faith.

 |  She Says  |  3-minute read |   02-12-2015
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The "I'll be watching you" nature of social media rose to a full swing with the #AnthemDebate. Every single opinion was scrutinised, shredded and twisted. More entertaining was the #SelfieWithPM charade by affluent journalists. Why was the media silent on the Nawaz Sharif-Narendra Modi moment in Paris left many speculating.

While Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg happily gave away 99 per cent of his company's shares upon the birth of his daughter, actor Rimi Sen's elimination from Bigg Boss 9 was quite disturbing a news. Amidst these #BreakingNews, my Twitter feed was buzzing with tweets about #ChennaiFloods.

Under the hashtags #ChennaiRains, #ChennaiRainsHelp, #ChennaiVolunteer, #ChennaiRescue etc, a myriad of people were diligently tweeting the addresses and phone numbers of people who could accommodate the stranded ones. People tweeted about food being prepared in large quantities, packed in hundreds and thousands of packets, asking for volunteers who could distribute them to the needy. Actor Siddharth, proved himself a real life hero by creating a team and a separate hashtag #ChennaiMicro for food parcel pickup and delivery.

Information regarding safer places, boats, helpline numbers, and area-wise list of verified doctors and hospitals happy to help was being updated every hour. All tweets containing important information were being mass RTed.

People who were stuck and could not find safer accommodation tweeted along with the hashtags which were shared so that help could reach them as early as possible. Many shared their phone numbers saying that they would recharge the phones of the needy if their balance was over. Mosques, temples, churches and educational institutions opened their doors to help. Since the airport and railway stations were shutdown, boats were the only means to provide help. The Indian Navy circulated its phone numbers to carry out the rescue operations.

There were many rumours about crocodiles escaping from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust circulating on social media. A notice was immediately issued by them that it was false.

Such unity, such sincerity during testing times is what makes this country so special. Those who could volunteer rushed to help at the addresses given. Those who could not present themselves physically, made sure they could help by connecting volunteers with the needy through social media. Twitter, Facebook, or WhatsApp, no stone was left unturned to make sure that help reaches the suffering people of Chennai.

Social media is usually considered as a venting-out machine, especially Twitter which is a rant-outlet throughout the year. But during the times of severe crisis, it transformed itself into something else. There were minimal political, satirical, humour, or emo tweets. #ChennaiFloods was trending on top. It's metamorphosis from a rant-outlet to a help-outlet is what restores faith in the power of social media.

Hopefully, the rain gods will have mercy on the suffering people and the situation in Chennai will improve in a few days. The old face of Twitter will be back with its rants, debates and controversies. But for now, this phase of social media exudes optimism despite the terrible times outside. Just as great chaos gives birth to awe-inspiring beauty, amidst the adversity of the #ChennaiFloods, people came together for a good cause.


Ruchi Kokcha Ruchi Kokcha @ruchikokcha

Author is a writer and a poet. Her debut book, Obsessed, a romantic thriller, has been published by HarperCollins India.

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