When Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, she taught New Jersey residents a lesson about the power of nature. But the storm that devastated much of the coast also taught lessons about the power of social media.
At the height of the storm, it was Facebook, Twitter and constantly updated websites that kept people informed.
PressofAtlanticCity.com set a record for page views during the storm, with more than 1 million page views on both Oct. 29 and Oct. 30. In comparison, daily page views during Hurricane Irene in August 2011 were just over 400,000.
Much of the most valuable information on The Press website and its mobile site could be found in the constantly updated tweets from staff members and users who passed along real-time news about power outages and the condition of the island communities - including, for instance, photos showing that Lucy the Elephant had come through the storm OK.
In the days that followed, people without electricity were charging their smartphones in their cars to stay in touch with the outside world. In some neighborhoods, families with electricity set up makeshift charging stations for their neighbors' tablets, laptops and phones.
Helpful sites were quickly created to spread news and keep people connected. Justin Auciello's Facebook page, "Jersey Shore Hurricane News," continues to help displaced people find rental units and offers firsthand accounts of conditions in Long Beach Island towns as people return to their homes. Social media sites are also being used to organize relief and fundraising efforts to help victims of the storm.
(You can find our Press It Forward list of area groups that are helping at PressofAtlanticCity.com
or add your group to the list by sending an email to
Of course, like other powerful forces, the tools of social media can be used for less benign ends. Some idiots hastily created Photoshopped images - such as one showing the Statue of Liberty being hit with a tsunami-like wave - that fooled many.
And, because the pass-it-along-quick style of citizen journalism doesn't leave much room for fact-checking, some decidedly harmful rumors were given credence. One, the ridiculous claim that the Atlantic City Boardwalk had been destroyed, was first misreported by Philadelphia television stations, spread like a viral video through social media and, unfortunately, is still being repeated by folks who ought to know better.
Still, you have to be impressed by the number of people who used fingers whipped into shape playing "Words With Friends" to reach out to offer comfort, information and aid to the storm's victims.
As Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, noted in a letter Tuesday, social media sites took over the role we used to expect the Emergency Broadcast System to play.
Who would have thought it?