Feeling isn’t believing

News moves quickly online, but should we trust the internet more than our own experiences?

When the earth shook in parts of the UAE yesterday morning, many people responded instantly. Not by finding a place to shelter or evacuating their building, but by jumping on to the internet to find out what was going on.

At The National’s offices in Abu Dhabi, the first clue that something had happened was not, as in previous seismic incidents, a rumbling underfoot and the swaying of ceiling-mounted tele­vision screens, but a sudden spike in internet traffic thanks to people who googled the word “earthquake”.

Almost immediately, social media was abuzz with comments and questions from those in the UAE and beyond who had felt the earth move. The National’s online coverage of the quake – a 5.1-magnitude event with an epicentre 60km east of Qeshm, an island off southern Iran – quickly became the most visited story on our website.

The way the incident unfolded says a lot about the way we source our information these days. Even if the event is palpable, like a tremor caused by an earthquake, we don’t quite believe it until we read about it on the internet.

Published: May 27, 2014 04:00 AM