While I’ve never been a huge fan of non-chronological news feeds on social media, I (and the rest of the world) have mostly grown accustomed to it. However, everything changes when disaster strikes. When you’re tracking a hurricane that may hit your area it’s very important that the most recent updates be at the top of your feed. Severe weather updates can change quickly: tornado warnings can come and go in a few short minutes, so it’s extremely important that the warning is seen.

Social Media Becomes a Source for News

According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of Americans get at least some of their news from social media as of 2017. Now, there’s a whole other issue with that and the algorithms whereby Facebook particularly (and LinkedIn as well) got some bad attention for their algorithms promoting actual fake news. That aside, over half of the population gets news from social media, and news has a timely nature about it. This caries over into social media updates from news outlets.

Local Weather Stations Drop the Ball

In the last month or so, Florence hit, multiple tornadoes hit, and now Michael has hit. Big news networks don’t adequately cover local weather issues, but when I needed updates, local news channels were either showing other programs or covering other aspects of the news, not the weather. I turned to social media for timely updates, and I was failed. I learned about a tornado WARNING in my area 5-7 minutes into it. My local news station was running a bit about some of the local sports teams, which was not concerning to me during an active tornado warning. If it had hit us, we wouldn’t have even seen it coming. Local news stations that I follow did post about the warnings, but it was buried deep in my feed and popular tweets from the day before, that I had already read, were at the top of my feed instead.

Hashtags Offer a Potential Solution

In the Twittersphere, hashtags have offered a solution to tracking timely updates on a certain topic. You can search for a specific hashtag (whether it’s a conference hashtag or an online meeting like #seochat) and then sort by “Latest” to see most recent updates first. This is a great way to circumvent the algorithms of the news feed and interact with the most recent posts on a topic. For this reason, using hashtags and using them smartly is really important, especially for those taking part in real or virtual events.

While named storms like hurricanes could be hashtagged for quick access, most other disasters don’t come with names. Local news stations and others involved in distributing information during disasters should consider establishing localized hashtags to use during disasters to ensure relevant information can be easily sorted chronologically.

While it’s nice to see posts from close friends and family more frequently, it’s also important to be able to get chronological news updates. Until social media platforms address that issue directly, hashtags are the way to go to organize your posts and interact with people on that topic. But I’d honestly be fine with going back to a fully chronological news feed. Anyone else?

Charlotte Price – Content Creator

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