Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook became the much-needed means of communication on Wednesday after phone networks got jammed because of the blasts.
Several anxious people managed to reach their friends and relatives through these websites. Suzanne, a college student, said, “I tried to contact my friends, but was unable to do so and was extremely anxious. Finally, I logged on to Facebook and was relieved to see all my friends online.”
The most frequent piece of advice dispensed on Facebook and Twitter was to use these sites to reach out to people instead of clogging the phone lines even further. An overwhelming amount of help was pledged on Twitter.
A spreadsheet with a long list of Mumbaikars willing to donate blood, give a lift, offer a place to stay was swiftly uploaded on Twitter.
The blog Mumbai Help, which was started in 2005 for crises such as these, was updated with useful contact details. Similar information was posted on Google+, the new social networking site. Several users offered lifts to people unable to get taxis and accommodation. Users connected several people who were stranded with those offering help in the same area.
Hash tags were created for those who wanted traffic updates, a place to stay, a ride home, donation of blood and any sort of help. The sites were also full of rumours. Chief among them was that the blasts were in honour of Ajmal Kasab, who, allegedly, had his birthday yesterday. One tweet read: “The bloody terrorists celebrated Kasab’s birthday with fireworks! And we let them! Horrified.”
Another rumour was that school kids were the chief targets.
However, people were quick to shout down rumour-mongers. It seemed that Kasab’s Wikipedia page had been modified to say that it was his birthday when it wasn’t.
An angry Twitter user said: “It’s not Kasab’s birthday, some sick diseased person has played a prank by editing Wiki links.”
Several users insisted that the Twitter be used just to provide help; the analysis could come later. One individual tweeted: “Don’t use bandwidth to curse government and police. That can come later. Help who you can online.”
There was also a lot of anger against new channels for sensationalizing news instead of reporting sensibly. A software engineer tweeted, “Everything is calm in Mumbai, only places of trouble and screaming are TV studios.”