As I sat here in Richmond, Virginia today feeling the earth’s amazing power to shake rocks across state lines, I experienced my first 5.9 earthquake. It felt and sounded like someone dribbling a dumpster for what seemed like 2 minutes. All in all, no major damage to respond to and no lasting effects. Work only slowed for about 30 minutes as everyone chattered a bit. Now the states of Virginia and the Carolinas prepare for hurricane Irene to dance her way across the southern mid-Atlantic. All of this environmental upheaval had me thinking about writing a blog on risk and how companies need stronger disaster recovery plans… But I was struck by another aspect of the experience that left me fascinated: “Connectivity”.
First I should say I was on the phone with someone in North Carolina during the event and approximately 45-60 seconds into my “vibra-dance”, they felt the rumble too; creepy cool. During the earthquake I checked weather and internet search sites to see if anything was reported. It took over 10 minutes for these channels to first start registering the news of the event. I’m old enough to be impressed with that as a technology innovation, but I knew that would not win the “first to report” race.
With a complete lack of political bias I simultaneously checked FoxNews.com and CNN.com, both had a breaking news tag within 5 minutes after the last piece of furniture stopped shaking. I was impressed. This is where I learned it was a 5.8 earthquake (later 5.9) and that it was based in Virginia.
Continuing…a few minutes later I typed an email to some folks in another Richmond office across town. They responded back within a minute that the epicenter was in Mineral, Va. Mineral is about 39 miles away. So within say 6 minutes, I knew it all. I knew what had happened, where it happened, and mostly importantly I wasn’t losing my mind, others have felt it too. In 6 minutes it was history. Some would say it would be better to know 6 minutes before the event, but from a technology perspective, the immediacy would have blown the minds of anyone who died before 1990.
Note when I got off my phone call, I lost voice connectivity completely. I feared infrastructure damage, but later realized this was an overload. Through it all, my internet continued flawlessly.
Ok but it gets better (and worse). Both of my daughters were each on opposite corners of the city at the time, preparing for school and sports teams. Both daughters, while the earthquake was rattling, went on Facebook and both had not 1, but many entries screaming “E-A-R-T-H-Q-U-A-K-E” one typed letter at a time. This blows my mind and I’m not dead yet.
Why did this blow my mind? I give your two reasons. One: that a generation of people through an overlapped network of friends and acquaintances shared the experience as if they were in a room together. There’s no “I can’t wait to tell my friend when I see her” happening in their world. It happens real-time. And, two: All of those kids went to Facebook almost simultaneously as they checked in with the “adult in charge” on what to do in this emergency situation (remember East Coaster’s know very little about earthquakes). I for one didn’t consider Facebook or social media at all in this time of crisis, I fell upon old patterns. I picked up the phone and the liberated Gen-X’r that I am; I typed out words in a search engine.
I feel this is a great example of how the world is changing. The generation gap isn’t like the one I had with my parents. I think it’s quite easy to raise teenagers. We seem to understand each other better. We listen to the same music. However, the gap is as wide. We’re notably different in how we interact with the world, in how build trust networks and in how we respond to others like corporations.
We in the business world are already hiring, marketing and selling to the first generation of this big change. Many of us seasoned professionals scoff at these changes as if they aren’t that impactful, but they are. When you choose social media first or even second as a tool for dealing with a “gut-check” emergency there is a fundamental connection that has powerful implications some brilliant and positive, some scary. To them it was a Singular Virtual Experience.
I for one heard its virtual rumble and understood its power today.