I've written before about the importance of images when a crisis breaks. When Asiana Airlines 214 crash landed at San Francisco International Airport yesterday, it didn't take long for social media, especially Twitter, to kick into high gear. One of the things that was very clear watching the information cascade was how quickly images of the event went viral. The images taken closest to the source (the wreckage) went viral fastest. All of the images like the one below were taken by passengers who had survived the crash and evacuated the plane. This is reality today. We document our lives even when they may be in peril.
A couple of thoughts here. First, astonishment at the people evacuating the plane carrying their bags. I know people do irrational things during a crisis, but, wow, just leave the luggage. Second, mainstream journalists covering breaking news have to come up with a better way to have situational awareness of what the rest of the world is seeing and adjust accordingly. For example, NBC and CNN both were reporting witnesses who said the plane "cartwheeled" and that the "wing broke off." I'm not an aviation expert, but from the picture below, that simply can't be true. I understand not speculating. I don't understand not using basic observational skills.
All crises are human events and nothing connects humans like social media.
Social media is also how people let their loved ones know they're ok after a disaster. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg posted that she was supposed to be on flight 214, but switched to United. She apologized if people were worried. The man who posted the photo below did so from the emergency room where he was awaiting a CT scan.
And once he posted the photo, the media angled for an interview.
By the way, Mr. Levy was released from the hospital Saturday and he did the interview with CNN.
This is how a major crisis unfolds today: Overwhelmingly fast and intensely personal. We watch from our living rooms, computer screens or smart phones and feel as though we're sitting with the passengers, sitting on the field watching the plane burn.
I wonder how many companies and organizations are truly ready for what they will face when the tsunami of information crashes ashore.