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Responding to the earthquake in Nepal: Facebook shows us how it’s done

by Zoe Harrison | 29.04.2015
Social media is widely viewed as a means of lightweight entertainment or a casual way to connect with friends but last weekend it caught my eye for a different reason. After the terrible earthquake in Nepal, I’m sure many of you were left concerned for loved ones travelling the surrounding area and you may have received a notification letting you know that they’re safe. I did, and I thought to myself, ‘what a constructive way of utilising Facebook’s vast database’. It just shows, social media doesn’t have to be all shameless selfies and cute cat memes, good one Facebook!

So how does it work?

If it looks like you may be near a natural disaster, Facebook will ask if you’re safe. If you’re OK, all you have to do is tap the “I’m Safe” button to let friends and loved ones know right away. As I discovered, Facebook will let you know when friends say they’re safe. You can also check a list of friends who may be affected by the disaster. Such a simple mechanic that makes it so easy for people to let everyone know they’re safe with a click of a button.


Like all great ideas, this function came about organically. During the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011 Facebook noticed how reliant the affected became on social media and decided to develop an easier way for people to use the social channel to let their loved ones know they’re ok. They stated: “During that crisis, we saw how people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about.”

You may also have noticed a “Donate Now” button appear at the top of your newsfeed. This function gives users the option to donate £10, £25, £50, £100 or a custom amount. They’ve also pledged to support relief efforts by donating a further $2 million on top of any money raised. All proceeds will go to International Medical Corps, which is operating mobile medical units to treat the critically wounded and dispense medicine.

In a recent blog post, Facebook stated: “By offering tools to help people donate to support those in the affected areas and check on loved ones, we’re hopeful that together we can promote safety and help urgent resources reach those who need them.”

So here’s to you Facebook! It’s a great to see a powerful, multinational company lead by example, so let’s all follow and help those who have been effected by this terrible disaster.