A presidential election in 2008, social revolutions in the Middle East and now Hurricane Sandy.
Just as Facebook burst into the mainstream during Barack Obama’s first presidential election campaign, today Instagram, the photo-sharing app now owned by Facebook, is finding widespread use as the preferred storytelling medium of the biggest storm in decades to hit the east coast.
Ten photos per second are being posted to Instagram, as people snap photos from the window of their apartment buildings in New York, or retrieve and doctor old photos to make their artistic contribution to the Frankenstorm meme.
“I think this demonstrates how Instagram is quickly becoming a useful tool to see the world as it happens – especially for important world events like this,” said Kevin Systrom, chief executive and founder of Instagram.
Facebook and Twitter continue to be major communication channels for residents and visitors to the east coast letting family members know they are safe, or reporting on the water levels in their homes.
“We are OK,” was the most shared phrase on Facebook on Tuesday morning, followed by “power outage”, and “damage”.
The US’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, even directed people to communicate with each other via social media and text to relieve stress on mobile telephone networks.
Twitter demonstrated its good citizenship by posting instructions on how users could sign up to receive real-time storm updates from local and national government agencies via SMS, in the event that disrupted internet services interfere with the delivery of tweets to computers.
Google created an interactive Hurricane Sandy map that tracked the movement of the storm, and showed the location of power outages and emergency shelters.
All good until the phone charge dies and people can find a place to plug back in.