Columns, On The Record, Opinion

The strongest earthquake aftershocks happened on X | On the Record

This past Friday, a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck Lebanon Township, New Jersey, sending shockwaves across the East Coast. 

The earthquake itself may have found its physical center in New Jersey, but its figurative one rested somewhere else: New York City. At least, that’s the way it appeared on X. 

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

There was a point in time when many thought that with Elon Musk’s purchase of X, the site would become a defunct social media site people used to get some news and hear about what was happening. 

And while many still mourn what used to be, events like last week’s earthquake reactions prove that while the site has changed, the core of its appeal — an easy-to-access community — still exists and is thriving. 

The response to the earthquake on X — which seemed to come primarily from concerned New Yorkers — was literally automatic. The earthquake started around 10:23 a.m., and X erupted with posts within the next few minutes. Even the Empire State Building got in on the action just a minute after the initial earthquake started, posting a quick reassurance at 10:24 a.m.: “I AM FINE.”

The earthquake was so short and harmless that many New Yorkers thought it was the aftershock of a train passing by — even those who don’t live directly near or under any trains. And for New Jersey’s citizens at the epicenter, while the shock of the earthquake was more intense, little damage was caused. 

The earthquake itself might have been short and essentially harmless, but the aftershocks — the internet kind, not the physical kind — left an impression on me. 

An earthquake isn’t the end of the world. The one in New Jersey this past weekend was quite small scale — some West Coast earthquake veterans made sure to point that out. 

Most reasonable internet users understood that the earthquake was not a complete cause for panic or a signal of the end of the world. But for the brief moment in which those fears might have arisen, it’s telling that so many people quickly turned to the internet. 

It makes it hard not to question the obvious — when catastrophe does strike, where will most turn first? To their neighbors, or social media? 

Maybe, those two things are now one and the same. The internet is now as much of a community as our neighborhoods and schools — we have blurred the lines between them all, morphing each into one conglomerated void where we can spew our thoughts. 

That’s the actual beauty of social media — it is a never-ending place of opportunity to do the one thing our hearts desire: worry. 

With the doom of several concerns encroaching upon our lives — climate change, inflation, a housing crisis — it feels like helplessness is unavoidable. And even though social media and the internet often contribute to some of that helplessness, moments like those that followed the earthquake remind us of its original purpose. 

Even when that connection is found in fear or uncertainty, it’s a connection nonetheless, the one thing we all crave in times of uncertainty. 

Social media — for all its faults — provides us with a forum to expel those fears and to find community in people who deal with uncertainty like we do. It’s also a glimpse into our possible future. 

Because even when the end of the world does come, it seems like we’ll at least have a place to joke about it. 

More Articles

Comments are closed.