More than 4,600 people are confirmed dead from the Nepal earthquake. And according to Al Jazeera, Nepal’s prime minister said that it could reach up to 10,000.
At a time when people are displaced, missing or even dead, a surprising resource is providing comfort for those looking for loved ones: social media.
New Internet technology like Facebook’s Safety Check App and Google’s Person Finder are moving beyond creepy and are helping inform friends and family of the whereabouts of those stranded in damaged or destroyed areas of Nepal and India.
A common complaint about Facebook is that it knows too much about us. It knows what we’ve been shopping for on Amazon, and it reminds us of what we were doing or saying on this day four years ago. It knows our faces and reminds our friends to tag us in their photos when it recognizes us. Now we are seeing the creepiness as, well, useful.
“Safety Check is our way of helping our community during natural disasters and gives you an easy and simple way to say you’re safe and check on all your friends in one place,” said Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, in a post.
The app is used to generate alerts on Facebook to friends of those trapped in the affected areas. Those lost or affected can also confirm that they are safe.
This is just another embodiment of the idea of a shrinking world. With travel and communication across continents now easier than ever, Facebook and Google are harnessing the idea that technology and user-generated content can be used for more than just sharing Buzzfeed links.
These huge companies have what might sometimes seem like an omnipotent power, which can be frightening. But it’s also comforting to see them stick to their original mission of connecting people. Even though it seems like they often get off track with selling us things, using social media propels the companies’ commitment to becoming one of the world’s necessary evils.