By Gemma D’Souza
When you are in your last year of university, you normally do a big final project called a dissertation.
I did a geography degree and my dissertation took me about nine months to complete. The final word count was just under 10,000 words. Sounds daunting right? I thought the same, but then I realised it actually wasn’t. Most courses allow you to choose the topic of your dissertation. You can find something you enjoy, make yourself familiar with it, do lots of research, collect data or interview people and then write up what you have found.
I’m really interested in natural disasters – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and so on. I’m also a big social media fan – I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and could spend hours scrolling through them all each evening. So I decided to link them together and make my dissertation about how Twitter can possibly help save lives after a natural disaster has taken place.
How is Twitter useful?
Twitter lets you post a comment, add an image and also add the location of where you are when you send that tweet. When a disaster happens, aid agencies (like the Red Cross, for example) need to get to the victims affected by the disaster as soon as they can. If victims still have access to a phone or computer, they can send a tweet directly to these aid agencies, asking for help and receiving assistance more quickly.
For example, someone could send a tweet saying how many people are injured or lost, what sort of help they need and most importantly, where they are. Using the Twitter App they can even attach their exact location and pinpoint it on a map.
In March 2015 Cyclone Pam hit the South Pacific (to the east of Australia and the north of New Zealand). It ruined hundreds of boats, roads and homes across thousands of miles and on different islands. Tweets and photos were collected from victims on these islands, particularly Vanuatu, and were responded to. It’s good to know that social media can be used to help people in emergencies.
Gemma D’Souza graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a degree in geography.
Find out how to become an aid worker.