It’s not an earthquake until Facebook and Twitter say so

Tuesday night I was cat sitting for my mother when all of a sudden it seemed like someone had turned on a jackhammer in the apartment downstairs. When it stopped, I rushed to both balconies to see if anything was happening on the street below. Nothing.

After letting Cairo know that everything was okay and she could go back to licking herself, I sat back down in front of the computer. The first Facebook post I saw (from our news editor Julian Ward nonetheless) screamed what I had yet to figure out: “EARTHQUAKE!”

I’ve experienced earthquakes before, from a basement apartment, but never from the third floor. When I saw the posts start to pour in, many of them asking if that was, in fact, an earthquake, I was relieved to know that there wasn’t something sketchy and loud going on in my Mom’s hood and I was not alone.

Wanting to know details, I started surfing the local news sites, CBC, The Gazette, CTV…nothing. Meanwhile, the TV still in the other room (sorry Mom) continued playing The Daily Show, unshaken.

I returned to Facebook and there it was: 4.5 on the Richter scale, the epicentre near Longueil. I quickly shared this link for the site that monitors seismic activity through the FTB Facebook page.

And then came the memes. First, Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones warned, “Brace yourself! Earthquake status updates are coming!” Then came the image (which admittedly I have seen before) of one of four patio chairs knocked over with a text that read “Montreal Earthquake 2012 – We Will Rebuild!”

I turned to Twitter and saw there was already a hashtag #MontrealEarthquake. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to Twitter unless it’s to check up on the #manifencours or follow a political campaign (give me a reason to go there more often, follow @jasoncmclean), but from what I could tell, the discussion was on par and on time with the one on Facebook.

I also found out that FTB associate Aimee Davidson of 100 Jobs had released a vlog of her reaction to the quake and it had already gone viral. Meanwhile, in the other room, The Daily Show had turned into Colbert, mocking Romney for something he had said a couple of days ago.

About 45 minutes after the quake happened and after Facebook and Twitter had already announced the event, given details and mocked it like it was yesterday’s news, I saw the first “breaking news” piece appear on a mainstream site.

Now, in all fairness, this was a local story that happened well after the workday was done. I also feel for my Facebook friend who posted about having to leave her apartment and jammies to go to her mainstream media office to file a story about the quake.

That said, if all I had to rely on were mainstream sites or even indie sites, with no Facebook or Twitter, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to check what had actually happened close to an hour later. I would have gone to sleep thinking something shady had happened right outside my door and wouldn’t have know different until the next day.

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