Tweet, Ping, Poke but #getmehome

April 21st, 2010

Unless you have been completely unplugged these last two weeks, you would have heard that Iceland has become, well, rather hot. On last count, six of my acquaintances were holed up at various airports, spending their costly dollars to deal with ‘forced and extended foreign stay.’ The volcano Eyjafjallajokull single-handedly grounded both flights and millions of passengers.

Undeterred, social media kept it promise of being a truly social medium. Hash tags like #getmehome, #ashtag, #ridesharing and desperate status messages on Facebook tell me that travelers are actively using Twitter and Facebook groups to voice complaints to the airlines (who are actually replying back with flight schedule!). Must applaud! Given the recent string of natural and man-made disasters, social media has really had an opportunity to expand its influence. It continues to be adapted and molded by a growing number of people.

Social media fans like Tod Brilliant- a Facebook user who was stranded in France because of the volcanic ash cloud grounding flights, has gone ahead and created a Facebook page that describes its purpose like this: “Hundreds of thousands of us are stranded, thanks to billowing ash from Iceland’s Mt. Elslksjksldxzjjjejsklaresssrfzzzt. Let’s come together, swap stories, keep our spirits up, and offer advice for coping with our situations.”

My 76-year old uncle, who was visiting India with his pension money, is now stuck in New Delhi as flights to Florida have been cancelled. While his ‘dollar’ buys decent ‘rupees’, he has been spending sleepless nights ever since he got an email from his neighbor who told him there was a minor fire in his backyard. He updated his Facebook status message about his situation and found an ex-colleague on the social site who volunteered to go and fix the damage done, in his absence.

A Twitter acquaintance tweeted — “Was to fly from London (to Mumbai) with Jet Air on April 19, now re-scheduled to April 28…worried about the fast depleting pounds in my pocket. How much rationing can I do?” She was soon offered free boarding in London by a helpful twitter-fellow who read her tweet and lived closeby.

Yet another Facebook friend put this message out: “At home, looking after kids due to volcano while grandparents stuck abroad.” Not only he was inundated with kind messages that helped him cope with kids, a few helpful friends even suggested him ways to keep kids occupied and out of his hair.

Not to be outdone by web, BlackBerry has come out with apps that will allow phone users to keep a track of all flights (canceled or delayed) with an app called WorldMate Live. This app gives users instant access to all trip details, including itineraries, weather updates, currency converters and more.

My humble advice to anyone stuck somewhere because of volcano delays, please get on to a social media site. You might just find your Johnny-on-the-spot.

JUST HEARD: (on Twitter of course)

Flights and airports are getting back to normalcy. And tweets of relief are pouring on Twitter from across the globe.

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