I have been incredibly impressed with Twitter since 11 March. The earth had hardly stopped shaking before friends around the globe were using the service to get in touch, checking that I was still in one piece and sending their good wishes. Some time later, when it became apparent that the Tokyo transport network was going to remain out of action for a while, and when phone calls didn’t connect and emails (the Japanese version of SMS text messages) were impossible to send, miraculously Twitter was still working.
It was a real comfort to be in contact with people I ‘know’, both in the real-life sense and because we follow each other, as well as to be able to gather essential information such as the location of Tokyo’s emergency shelters and, more importantly, on the tragedy that was still unfolding in northern Japan.
The real-time, verifiable nature of posts on Twitter has been constantly illuminating, with even entities such as the Japanese Prime Minister and the UK Foreign Office now using it. The latest reports from the Fukushima plant, Geiger counter readings from Tokyo rooftops, news about train stoppages and planned blackouts, calls for volunteers to sort relief packages, donation appeals and more have all been shared between residents of Japan and other countries at a pace undreamt of by the newspapers and magazines.
Then, just as I thought I couldn’t love it any more, being already prepared to fight to the death anyone dismissing it as trivial, last week Twitter upped an already quite high ante. Galvanised by an appeal from Our Man in Abiko for assistance, an international array of writers, artists, translators, designers and editors has volunteered time and effort to create what has come to be known as #quakebook to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross.
Watching #quakebook move from one man’s idea to reality in such a short time has been an inspiration. However, now it is time for the real work to begin. Quakebook needs YOU, not only to buy a copy, but to tell your friends and family, to pester everyone you work with or sit next to on the bus, to spread the word as far and as wide as you can to make sure that loads of people buy a copy of this remarkable book. It isn’t about ego, or glory, or even about the tale of how it went from one little tweet to an actual thing. Now it is only about raising stacks and stacks of cold, hard cash for the people affected by the earthquake of 11 March. So please, get involved.