Content Marketing Blog

Hurricane Irene leaves the streets empty but the tweets full

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene travelling along the east coast of the US, a number of commentators have spoken up to denounce the online hype that surrounded the arrival of the tropical storm.

New York was settling in for some serious weather, with webcams throughout the city showing deserted streets and a Times Square devoid of tourists.

But on the internet, the conversation about the impending storm was reaching a fever pitch. Forced to stay indoors by the threatening weather, members of the public stayed glued to their online channels for any news.

After the cell passed NYC, it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm and people became irate at the amount of hype that some media-sponsored Twitter campaigns produced about the weather phenomenon.

Meteorologist for Fox News Janice Dean refuted these claims, tweeting: "Easy to criticize the media and the Irene 'hype'… but if just one family evacuated and it saved lives, then the 'hype' was worth it to me."

Author and artist from The Oatmeal Matthew Inman summarised the general feelings surrounding the storm.

He pointed out that the alternative to severe warnings followed by light damage was no warnings followed by increased levels of danger as members of the public went about their business.

Inman asserted: "The worst disasters aren’t the ones we see broadcasted on CNN days before they happen, with newscasters promoting which Twitter hashtag you should use, meanwhile situating their cameras to maximize the dramatic effect of floodwater. The worst disasters come out of nowhere with very little warning, such as the Japanese tsunami or Hurricane Katrina."

The increased attention received by social media platforms could have contributed to the frenzy of online activity.

For example, several stories have surfaced about people caught in trouble-affected areas during the London riots frequently tweeting updates, letting members of the public know which areas were safe and which parts of town to avoid.