Social sites useful in difficult situations

Published 1:00 pm Monday, April 18, 2011

A lot of people, especially in the rural west Alabama area, are still somewhat reluctant when it comes to the use of modern social networking mediums such as Twitter. Thankfully, in the three years since I have been working at The Demopolis Times, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of local people who use Facebook. As of Friday, The Demopolis Times Facebook page had well over 1,000 followers. That is good for us simply because it provides our staff another way to get information to you.

But Twitter is a medium that better allows us to get information from other places.

Take Friday’s severe weather events for instance. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, the rapidity with which we could spit out useful information was unbelievable.

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I learned of the early closure of Marengo Academy and Linden City Schools early in the day. About 10 minutes after 11 a.m., I got a call from Marengo County Schools Superintendent Luke Hallmark informing me that MCS would be shutting down as of 1 p.m. By 11:13 a.m. that information was on Facebook, Twitter and The Demopolis Times Web site.

Shortly after noon, I put on my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts and The Times’ profile that Marengo County was under a Tornado Warning until 12:30 p.m. A student at Sweet Water High School who follows me on Facebook posted a comment on the status update, stating that SWHS had the power out and was in full tornado preparedness in the middle of the hallway. The student wanted to know if the warning would be extended.

I promptly Tweeted the question to James Spann at 33/40 and he replied quickly that the students needed to stay put for another eight minutes or so.

In a matter of only seconds so much information was acquired an relayed that would have taken immensely longer without social networking mediums.

Sure, there are negative aspects to things such as Facebook and Twitter. And they will never be able to give you the whole story.

But for quick tidbits and flash information, there is little better than subscribing to one or both of the sites and following your news outlet of choice. Or, do as I do, and follow a number of news outlets.

And as for those negatives, both sites allow you total control of who you follow, what you see and who gets your information. Besides, you never have to put any information out that you don’t want anyone else to know.

Plus, both sites allow you to have text messages sent directly to your cell phone, allowing for even faster updates. And on days like Friday when storms are ravaging west Alabama and you need information as quickly as possible, there is no better, more efficient way to get weather updates than by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

And when we cannot get out to a scene for various reasons, such as Friday’s considerable damage, Twitter and Facebook still let us pass on quickly what we can get from the people who are there. And it also allows others to get important information back to us with lightning efficiency. So embrace the advancements, learn their intricacies and use them to help us help you.

Jeremy D. Smith is the community editor of The Demopolis Times.