Harvey: Social media have driven relief


Hurricane Harvey: a true American tragedy. This damage has not been seen in the United States since Hurricane Katrina, which left the city of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana battered. Taking years to rebuild, the city of Houston will now face a similar fate.

But one thing in particular monumentally separates these two disasters – the use of social media as a mass media news, reporting and fundraising tool. Through social media, we have been able to get up-to-date recounts of Harvey, including from residents trapped inside their homes as a result of the flooding.

Following a disaster, a few major things are needed. Those include basic supplies such as food and water, first responders and volunteers to help people who may be trapped and clear debris, and monetary donations. More money means more help.

For many, hearing about natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Harvey can be heartbreaking. But, until recently, people have not always had access to up-to-date information or ways to help other than what was broadcast on TV and radio. Today, that is no longer the case.

A-list celebrities such as Kevin Hart, the Kardashian family, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus and Leonardo Di’Caprio, have pledged millions of dollars to aid in the relief of those affected by Hurricane Harvey’s damage.

And how was this money raised? It all began when comedian Kevin Hart posted a video to social media challenging other celebrities and public figures to donate a minimum of $25,000. Since that video, similar videos of celebrities pledging larger and larger amounts have gone viral. On every news station, website or social media platform, you will find another donation in the thousands, even millions of dollars.

This is something that was not parallel to the response of Hurricane Katrina. As a result of these famous donations, people all over the country have been encouraged to help in any way they can – being able to give donations to organizations like the Red Cross right from their cellphones.

The response to Harvey shows the true power and reach of social media. Today, in times of disaster, everyone can come together and help in any way possible, regardless of where they are located. In a setting as casual as a social media feed, seeing any and everyone join a movement influences and encourages people to do the same.