It has been several days since Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey. While the New Jersey coastline was severely damaged in many spots, at the last minute Irene veered to the left and caused major havoc in central and northern NJ, NY, and New England. Before she started blowing and while we still had our electricity, I joined a Facebook group called the Jersey Shore Hurricane Group; a group created by three men who provide "up-to-the-minute news and original analysis to keep you informed during the approach of tropical systems.” The Jersey Shore Hurricane group grew to over 25,000 and many of the members have joined the conversation and contributed the kind of instant detail that can't be found on TV or the radio.
I also made sure to check on the Long Branch/West Long Branch Patch Facebook group and was able to see the updates from the other Patch news services that were close to my home. Years ago this wouldn’t have been possible.
Throughout the storm I looked to these groups for information about the current weather conditions, flooded neighborhoods and lightning strikes. Then, when our power went out and I switched to my Blackberry, I learned that my downtown had flooded and evacuations had started. Here it is four days later and I am still reading real time reports about road closures and detours, lost pets, water stations, member clothing donations, evacuation center needs, locations where the power has been restored and many stories of neighbor helping neighbor.
This, in my opinion is the true definition of networking; listening, sharing, responding and commenting. It is helping someone else by providing information that you know they need and can immediately use. It is giving without expecting to receive something in return. It is in essence, the very "human" part of human nature.