This winter has brought extensive flooding across the UK, with the country experiencing its wettest January and February since records began in 1910.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, electricity was cut off in some areas, and transport routes were impassable as tidal surges engulfed the coast and rivers burst their banks.
Communities have always come together in times of crisis, but with our lives moving more and more into the online world, the floods brought together new kinds of communities to help those stricken.
The volunteer map mash-up, for example, connects people in flooded parts of the UK with volunteers offering their time, equipment and skills. It also uses Twitter and a Facebook page to tell the stories of distressed families and those helping them.
In the badly hit Somerset Levels a group called Flooding on the Levels Action Group, or FLAG Somerset, emerged to coordinate activities on the ground using Twitter. By the end of January it had 300 followers and it now has more than 3,800. FLAG’s Twitter and Facebook pages are used to send out appeals for help and requests for donations.
Elsewhere, horses left dying in a flooded field in Leicestershire sparked a social media campaign. A good Samaritan who tended a dying horse sparked a massive Facebook campaign. Photos on the “Help the horses of Fosse Park” page prompted offers of stabling, hay, and practical assistance. It currently has more than 42,000 likes.
Social media are now an integral part of our lives and are now the place people turn to for help and information in times of crisis. Where have you seen social media pulling new kinds of communities together?