Twitter use during the Gulf oil spill


Social media has become a part of everyday life. We enjoy the contact Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., provide with friends and family, and, indeed, the world.

Sometimes we gripe about the downsides of the technology. People say it’s a time suck. There’s fake news. It’s hard to trust what you see.

These are real concerns, but they are on the surface of a human experience with deeper currents. It is this territory that Emmanuelle Vaast, Hani Safadi, Liette Lapointe and Bogdan Negoita explore in a recent paper in MIS Quarterly.

The research team examined the impact of social media use, specifically Twitter, on one big event—the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What was Twitter’s role in how people responded to the disaster?

Using qualitative and computational analyses, the team made some remarkable discoveries. Chief among them was that Twitter acts as a galvanizing force. It helps people to connect with others, allows them an emotional outlet, and to work collectively towards for the prevention of such events.

Technology’s advance is relentless, and this can produce a feeling of powerlessness. The work of Professor Vaast’s team provides a hopeful message. It shows that networks such as Twitter can help us keep some control over our destiny.