The snowball effect of social media (the Atlanta chronicles)

There were at least 100 cars parked on the road outside my apartment complex on Tuesday night. That's just one road in one suburb of Atlanta.

There were at least 100 cars parked on the roads outside my apartment complex on Tuesday night. That was just one spot in one suburb of Atlanta.

Living in Atlanta at the moment, I’m entitled to relay my harrowing account of Snowmageddon, the snow storm that paralyzed the city. (If you haven’t heard about this, this article will tell you the basics.)

Luckily, I don’t have a story to tell. I left work Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. and only live four miles from my apartment, so I reached home just as the traffic was revving up. I haven’t left my apartment since.

So I’m going to talk about something other than the government’s poor response to the situation or the 8+ hours that people spent in traffic or or the kids trapped at schools overnight or the baby that was born on a highway after her parents couldn’t reach the hospital. News outlets and internet denizens alike are already covering all of this.

I want to talk about the helping power of social media when it came to the thousands of people who were stranded in their cars after the city became a literal parking lot.

A Facebook group called SnowedOutAtlanta (and its associated offshoots for different regions of Atlanta) has garnered more than 57,000 members in about a day. People have posted available shelter, even their own houses, on the group. They’ve offered to drive stranded motorists home in four-wheelers. They’ve kept people updated about the situation.

In short, this Facebook group helps others in a real and tangible way.

Social media is a powerful tool. In this case, the Facebook group allows people to pool their resources — shelter, food, information, transportation — to aid others. It even has a Google Map so people can search for available shelter wherever they’re stuck.

I can hear the naysayers in the audience. The combined membership of this Facebook group accounts for roughly 1 percent of Atlanta, leaving the other 99 percent in the cold, so to speak. But this is 1 percent of the city — thousands upon thousands of people — that wouldn’t have been helped had this Facebook group not existed.

You could even say this group eased the task of authorities when they were (and still are) under great strain. SnowedOutAtlanta prompts action.

A few weeks ago, someone told me that social media “isn’t serious.” Hardly. Snowmageddon demonstrates the value of social media — that ability to bring people together in a way that was impossible a decade ago. And isn’t that the true essence of social media?

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