September 21, 2010; Source: NPR | Stop the presses! Twitter and smart phone apps are saving the world. Or so says the headline to this story from NPR. Hyperbolic headlines are de rigueur for editors itching for pageviews (just look at some of ours), but this one is a dandy.
At the core of all hyperbole lies some truth, however. The story notes that millions of dollars were raised through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and text messaging campaigns in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti early this year. First responders also used text messages to help each other guide their ways through the rubble.
Even before the quake in Haiti, the story points out, nonprofits have been using social media to reach out to those in need: from tracking post-election violence in Kenya to raising money for mosquito nets for developing nations.
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Buried in the story is a new idea from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes who is currently developing a new social networking site to search and identify nongovernmental organizations worldwide and stay in contact with them over time.
“We have networks that make it easy to connect with friends, to find a good restaurant to go to dinner, to watch a movie instantly, yet there’s no network for the social sector,” says Hughes. “The more that people know about a cause or a problem, the more that they know about the people who are working to develop solutions or implement solutions, the more likely they are to be aware of it or support those solutions.”
It isn’t clear why current social networking sites can’t serve this same function—after all, that’s what we’re all tweeting and Facebooking about, isn’t it? But it’s this kind of innovation that we’ve seen – seemingly overnight – become integral to our operations. So is Twitter saving our world? It may just yet.—Aaron Lester