Perspectives on the earthquake: Facebook at fault

Perspectives on the earthquake: Facebook at fault

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
23. August 2011 15:20

From my high-rise office near the New Madrid Fault Line, it's unsettling to consider the unusual activity to my west and east in Colorado and Virginia. Within a day, each state shattered its seismic silence.

Measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, the former was Colorado's strongest earthquake in nearly 40 years. At 5.8, the latter was the strongest that Virginia had witnessed in over a century. Thankfully, midnight's earthquake near New Mexico's border caused little damage.


The East Coast / Mid-Atlantic region has been on shakier ground. According to the US Geological Survey, "Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region... as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast."

In areas of safety, officials have shown caution by evacuating buildings and shutting down a nuclear plant. In other respects, concerns were mild. For example, nearby Alexandria, Virginia, is dealing with minor damage and disruptions, including relocating (only) one of its polling stations.

As someone who lived in Virginia for months and West Virginia for a year, I did what anyone else thousands of miles away would do: I checked on my networks.

Real-time reactions to the August 23 earthquake in Virginia

Location Approx. distance from epicenter Facebook status
Alexandria, VA 87 mi / 140 km
That was fun...not so much. Sad part is I thought the building was falling. It never crossed my mind that we would have a 5.8 earthquake in VA!!!!!
Philadelphia, PA 227 mi / 365 km
5.8 earthquake, just felt my street rumble, picture frames falling off the shelves. This isn't supposed to happen in Philadelphia!
Charleston, WV 282 mi / 454 km
News saying for everyone to check their homes for gas leaks from the quake, things could have fallen loose because we never have earthquakes here.
Brooklyn, NY 319 mi / 513 km
[Boyfriend] sends me a text: "My building is evacuating me." NOT I am okay. I am gonna kill em when he gets home.
Indianapolis, IN 586 mi / 943 km
definitely just had an earthquake in indianapolis, death really is coming for me...

Like many, after checking on my friends, I checked for real-time updates on Twitter (as well as more credentialed news sources). Thanks to Twitter, I saw @adamjclarkson's images of the DC earthquake devastation and @Joe_Stanley's #science trivia that "The earthquake produced enough power to provide for Virginia's energy needs for 10 minutes."

One cogent point has been made for this and other news items over the past few months:

One thing that I think will be memorable about this quake in the social media era is that a lot of people here in New York City, in Chicago and in other places learned about the earthquake by Twitter before they actually felt it. That's just the immediacy of social media. -- Peter Alexander, MSNBC

Did either earthquake affect you or your business? How did you discover and share this earthshattering news? Did you feel it?

Image by _rockinfree

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