How people affected by disasters use social media: a study of Facebook usage during the 2017 Garden Route fires

Lendrum, Derryn Addie (2019-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: On June 7, wildfires began in Knysna and burned along a fire line for 300km, also affecting neighbouring Sedgefield and Plettenberg Bay (Knysna-Plett Herald 2017). The major fires burned between June 7 and June 11, however small smouldering fires continued for nearly two weeks (Knysna-Plett Herald 2017). Social media, which has become part of everyday life across the world (Fraustino, Liu & Jin 2012), was found to be a resourceful component to the management of the Garden Route fires. The one-to-many nature of Twitter and Facebook has shaped an opportunity for stakeholders and the public to distribute crisis-relevant messages, and to access large amounts of information they may not otherwise have (Fraustino, Liu & Jin 2012). There is extensive literature on social media in South Africa, as well as academic literature on disasters in South Africa. However, other than an article by Skinner and Rampersad (2014), no research has linked social media use to any specific disaster in South Africa. Since majority of the articles found on social media tend to focus on Twitter use, the unit of analysis for this thesis is Facebook. This research aims to fill the above-mentioned gap in literature, with a view to optimise the potential of social media as a communication tool, for disaster risk reduction, and to improve response during emergencies. This research examines how people used social media during the wildfires that affected the Garden Route communities in June 2017 and whether the results are similar to those found during other disasters in different parts of the world. The overarching aim was to determine how people affected by a disaster event use social media, and whether there are common ways that they communicate. Further focus was given to determining whether certain formats of messages and ways of communicating were more popular than others. Based on the results from the 2017 Garden Route fires, disaster-affected people may communicate in common ways on social media. Facebook proved to be an effective channel of communication throughout the disaster, and it continues to be, with the Knysna Fires 7th June 2017 Facebook page still receiving messages related to the disaster event. Results showed that messages posted on the Knysna Fires 7th June 2017 Facebook page could be classified into four main categories: Information-related, action-related, emotion-related, and opinion-related. These are the same four categories that were used to analyse social media use during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the 2010 Yushu earthquake, and the 2014 Hazelwood Mine fire. Based on the literature findings from this research, there are common things that disaster affected people do and say on social media, regardless of disaster type and demographics. The findings of this research highlight that photo and video messages that were accompanied by a text description to give context to the photos or videos were the most popular message format and thus received the most responses from Facebook users. The photos and videos helped to graphically show the extent of damages in areas affected by the fire. Since photo and video messages received such a high number of responses, it is recommended that both the public and disaster management officials make greater use of these formats to communicate during future disasters. Authorities can use social media platforms such as Facebook as an additional tool for disseminating emergency information to the public.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Op 7 Junie 2017, breek verwoestende weghol veldbrande in Knysna uit. Dit strek oor ‘n gebied van 300 km, selfs sover as Sedgefield en Plettenbergbaai (Knysna-Plett Herald 2017). Die brande woed onverpoos vanaf 7 tot 11 Junie 2017, en kleiner smeulende vure word nog vir byna twee weke opgemerk (Knysna-Plett Herald 2017). Sosiale media, wat deel vorm van die alledaagse lewe oral in die wêreld (Fraustino, Liu & Jin 2012), is vindingryk aangewend deur die krisisbeheer spanne van die Tuin Roete ramp. Die een-tot-baie aard van Twitter en Facebook skep geleenthede vir belanghebbendes en die publiek om krisis-verwante boodskappe te versprei en om groot hoeveelhede inligting te bekom. (Fraustino, Liu & Jin 2012). Daar is groot hoeveelhede literatuur in verband met sosiale media, asook akademiese literatuur oor rampe in Suid-Afrika beskikbaar. Dit blyk egter dat sosiale media nie aan enige spesifieke ramp in Suid-Afrika gekoppel word nie, behalwe vir ‘n artikel van Skinner en Rampersad (2014). Die meerderheid van die artikels wat op sosiale media gevind word, is op Twitter. Om hierdie rede gebruik die tesis Facebook as studie eenheid. Hierdie navorsing poog om die bogenoemde navorsingsgaping te vul met die oog op die optimalisering van sosiale media as 'n kommunikasie-instrument om ramprisiko's te verminder en om die respons in noodsituasies verbeter. Dit bepaal die aard van die gebruik van sosiale media tydens veldbrande in die Tuinroete-gemeenskap in Junie 2017 en vergelyk dit met die resultate van soortgelyke rampe elders in die wêreld. Die oorkoepelende doel was om te bepaal hoe die rampgeteisderde persone, sosiale media gebruik, en of daar algemene maniere is waarop hulle kommunikeer. Verder is daar gefokus op tipes boodskappe en die wyse van kommunikasie, en of daar voorkeure was. Bevindinge gebaseer op die Tuinroete-brande van 2017 toon dat persone betrokke by rampe soortgelyk kan kommunikeer op sosiale media. Dit is gevind dat Facebook 'n effektiewe kommunikasiekanaal tydens die ramp was en dat daar steeds inskrywings op die betrokke blad verskyn wat verband hou met die gebeure. Die boodskappe wat op die Knysna Brande Facebook blad geplaas is, kan geklassifiseer word in vier hoofkategorieë: Inligting-, aksie-, emosie- en meningsverwant. Dit is dieselfde vier kategorieë wat van toepassing was op die 2008 Sichuan Aardbewing, die 2010 Yushu Aardbewing, en die 2014 Hazelwood Mine-brand. Dus blyk dit dat daar ongeag die aard van die ramp of die demografie daarvan, heelwat ooreenstemming is in die interaksie van rampgeteisterde individue op sosiale media. Foto- en videoboodskappe met 'n teksbeskrywing wat die konteks van die foto of video toelig, was die gewildste boodskaptipe en het dus die meeste reaksie van Facebook-gebruikers ontvang. Die foto's en video's het die omvang van skade in gebiede wat deur die brand geraak word, grafies uit gebeeld. Aangesien foto- en video-boodskappe groot reaksie uitgelok het, word dit aanbeveel dat die publiek en rampbestuursbeamptes gebruik maak van hierdie tipe boodskappe in die toekoms. Betrokke hulpverleningsinstansies kan gebruik maak van Facebook as ekstra bron om noodinligting oor te dra aan die publiek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105762
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