Earthquake hits Eastern Seaboard; tweets spread faster than tremors

The East Coast experienced one of its largest earthquakes in recent memory, and the Internet erupts.

If you're anywhere between Virginia and Massachusetts right now (and possibly beyond), you're probably freaked out thinking that it's the end of the world. If that is the case, don't worry -- you only experienced what is probably your first earthquake.

A rating of 5.9 on the Richter scale is not really a joke, but the way that the Internet has exploded since this 10-15 second event has turned it into one -- at least from the perspective of those who grew up in areas where earthquakes are more common. (Fact: Don't forget that earthquakes can actually happen anywhere on the planet!)

Being in San Francisco, a city along the Ring of Fire in which one usually can't tell an average earthquake from a truck going by, I didn't know about the East Coast earthquake that stemmed from near Washington, D.C. until my Facebook feed literally exploded.  Most of the status updates iterated a lot of the same anxious emotions and wondering what the heck just happened to them.

Even Manhattan-based Gawker had a post up within minutes detailing what it could in a short span of time about the situation, noting that the earthquake didn't knock anything down in the home of their D.C. correspondent. (It's also one of the few sites that noted that Colorado experienced an earthquake just minutes before, which happens to be the largest in that state in 40 years!)

Memes and Twitter hashtags spread like wildfire (which sometimes does follow an earthquake). Just look at this one tweet:

RT @[redacted]: The collective eye-rolling of everyone in California is probably moving the earth more than the east coast #earthquake

Even my colleague, Andrew Nusca, reported from Philadelphia that he created a "Earthquakepocalypse" location on FourSquare, and 75 people have checked in within 15 minutes. Make that 1,300 people within 30 minutes.

Writing as someone who has lived through a major earthquake, some of the reaction does come across as a bit amusing.

Of course, earthquakes are still very serious natural events that can cause a lot of destruction. So some of this might seem a bit callous when thinking about past disasters in recent history. There's even the potential for damage still along the East Coast as most buildings there are not built to withstand earthquakes. (Don't forget about aftershocks!)

Nevertheless, whether people are spreading real news or just humorous tidbits about it using social media, it shows that Facebook, Twitter and the whole lot of them really are the source of immediate news and could prove to be useful in the case of devastating disasters in the long as there is still wireless service available.


[Image via jmckinley]