Media Literacy and Social Support

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has affected millions of people in New York and along the New Jersey coastline.

According to a PBS report, the storm has killed at least 40 people and caused over $20 billion dollars in damage.

Schools and public transportation have been shut down and millions of people are still without power.

Many people are homeless.

In my previous post, I talked about the importance using social media carefully, to not misinform the public by sharing fake images. I also talked about why media literacy matters.

Media literacy plays an important role in teaching people how to use media tools. We now focus on the role that social media plays during times of disaster.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are powerful communications tools that can be used to help people in the aftermath of a disaster.

The ability to connect and instantly share information with other people is what makes social media a valuable tool. With social media, people can reach out to those in need and make a difference.

Many people have already been doing so.

An article written by Mark Horvath demonstrates the power of social media.

A sense of community can be established through social media, which provides people with social support.

Van Dam, et al. (2005) explain that social support is about the relationship between individuals and can be seen as an exchange of resources between at least two people.

Such resources include information as well as emotional support. It can also deal with providing people with material goods such as transportation, money or even physical assistance.

Social support is also about the basic social needs of people that are satisfied through interacting with others. It is a network of communication and mutual obligation from family, friends, social and community groups such as churches or clubs (van Dam, et al., 2005).

These supportive social interactions may help lower feelings of lost of control (Hogan, Linden & Najarian, 2002), which helps people cope during times of disaster.

Research conducted by Taylor, Wells, Howell & Raphael (2012) supports the notion that social media can be used to deliver psychological first aid to the victims of disaster and support community resilience.

It is time to focus on the community.




Hogan, B., Linden, W. & Najarian, B. (2002). Social support interventions: Do they work?. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 381-440.

van Dam, H.A., van der Horst, F.G., Knoops, L., Ryckman, R., Crebolder, H. & van den Borne, B. (2005). Social Support in diabetes: a systematic review of controlled intervention studies. Patient Education and Counseling, 59, 1-12.

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