This past weekend, I stopped home for Sunday night dinner and it happened to turn into a bit of a family reunion, with the addition of my sister’s boyfriend, and my brother’s girlfriend and her family. My mother, of course, cherishes these moments and points out that our family has not spent time all together since before the summer, in her classic slightly dramatic, but nonetheless thankful tone.
Typically, these little reunions are a joyful time of eating, drinking, and being merry, but this time, the sentiment was different. You see, my brother’s girlfriend’s family is from Puerto Rico and many of their family members are still living there. Since Hurricane Maria swept through last week, causing an unimaginable amount of destruction to the island, her family had been out of contact with each other. Everyone was anxious, because the only information we all had received was from media coverage and social media.
Fortunately enough, the phone rang early in the evening and my brother’s girlfriend and parents were able to speak to her family. It was an emotional connection, but we found out that the two families living in Puerto Rico were okay, and finally found out that each other were safe. Finally hearing from a trusted primary source of the realities in Puerto Rico had us all considering the accuracy (or inaccuracies) of what we had heard and seen on social media.
Hurricane Maria absolutely devastated the island of Puerto Rico, in addition to wreaking havoc in surrounding areas in the Caribbean early last week. There is no power and limited running water, yet social media is still playing a role in how we are able to gather and spread information on these events.
I have seen photos and videos of the island from news sources and locals, but even as quickly as a week after, these posts, especially from traditional media sources are fewer and fewer. Some people are posting, appearing to make the most of the situation, drinking in the street or joking around. In reality, there are food rations at grocery stores and a curfew, forcing all residents inside at 7PM each evening. There has been ransacking going on, as some are taking advantage of the awful situation in the most despicable way. Social media, by nature, allows people to post whatever they want, and the current situation in Puerto Rico is just one example of how the truth can be smeared.
On the other side, social media has been a powerful tool in connecting people throughout these trying times. Many Puerto Ricans living in the continental US have capitalized on potential of social media and have been working to raise awareness and funding for the island. There truly is power in numbers, showing in the sheer amount of people who have been reached through these campaigns.
Many have been critical on social media of President Trump’s reaction and words regarding Puerto Rico, while many others have been using social media to take action and make a difference.
One of the most amazing examples of this I have seen has been the Students with Puerto Rico movement. The group is comprised of students and others from across the country and their gofundme page has already raised almost $100,000 in the past 5 days to go directly to relief efforts.
Jimmy Fallon donated $20k directly through this page, which goes to show its reach.
Through using social media, it is easier than ever to find a trustworthy cause to support.
When people you know are involved in, founding, or advocating for these groups, it brings peace of mind in terms of knowing you are supporting a worthwhile cause.
Every major social media source is acting as a platform for people to connect, discuss, and take action.
Several other individuals with larger platforms of influence are doing what they can to help, too. Jennifer Lopez has used her power to not only donate money, but to spark a strong movement to find solutions in rebuilding Puerto Rico. She, along with Mark Cuban, Alex Rodriguez, and Marc Anthony are using their platforms to make this relief effort go viral. One of the greatest strengths of social media is its speed. Even funds or movements that start small have the power to grow very quickly to become quite substantial.
I have heard of many stories are the residents of Puerto Rico being there for each other in these dark times. It is reassuring that those outside the island are also caring, spreading the word, and growing relief funds, using the power of social media for good.