Tweet That, Hurricane Harvey

The Theory of Uses and Gratification examines why people use certain media, and the personal needs one fulfills when viewing media. When it comes to news, most people turn to social media like Twitter and Facebook; but what makes them interested in those posts? Why do people turn to twitter and Facebook to ask for help in times of destress? On one end, people are either interested in this news or they are just curious as to what is happening. On the other end those affected by what is going on are looking to media to aid them in times of destress. Both sides know why they are on those social media websites, which is to satisfy their own personal purposes.

Hurricane Harvey devastated my home town of Houston, Texas. While I was here in Provo, Utah 1200 miles away from home all I had were social media posts showing the catastrophic events taking part in Houston. So many homes and businesses were destroyed, not to mention the thousands of lives that were lost. There was however, during this troubling time, a light at the end of the tunnel. As you sifted through the upsetting pictures and videos on twitter there would be occasional tweets asking for help at a specific location and within seconds there were countless replies of citizens willing to come to the rescue. Neighbors were heading out on their boats to rescue people from their homes or cars. This disastrous time brought our socially-torn country together. Few weeks before there were equal rights demonstrations and threats of bombing from outside countries. And yet once Harvey hit that all virtually disappeared from social media. Local businesses started giving a portion of their profits to Harvey relief efforts, and celebrities were pledging hundreds of thousands of dollars to help those affected. All of these relief efforts were advertised on social media. JJ Watt through requesting donations on various social media sites raised 37 Million dollars.

The video I’ve attached is meant to not only attract empathy, but also demonstrate how a community can come together. What would drive someone to watch this video or go as far as to retweet it? For me, it was for closure. I had seen my home ripped apart so my attachment to the video came from seeing the efforts to rebuild. I’m sure a lot of people had the same feelings; though on the contrary, there were also those who watched it just because they were curious, or maybe they didn’t care about they video at all they were just killing  time on their phone. Everyone has different reasons for viewing media, and each person reacts differently to it; therefore, media always fulfills a personal need.

I assume that the user who made the video  was trying to invoke sympathy from those far away who did not feel the destructive power of Harvey. This ties into the Theory of Encoding and Decoding. Those who live in Houston or have family in Houston will decode the video differently than those who have no relation. The user had a purposeful message to convey, but how each viewer decodes it depends on their relevance to the situation.  

Both the Uses and Gratification theory and the Encoding and Decoding Theory examine why people view the media the way they do, and how their purpose in viewing determines how they interpret it. Hurricane Harvey trended on social media the first day it struck, instantly affecting the lives of most everyone with a computer or smart phone. Though they were all viewing the same media, everyone had their own reasons for being on those sites and had different reactions to the images and news they witnessed. It’s because people viewed the media surrounding the storm that so many lives were saved.  Tweet that, Hurricane Harvey.



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