Not surprisingly, yesterday’s 5.9-magnitude earthquake along the East Coast of the USA sparked a fury of Tweets from those who were caught in the tremors.  What got our attention, though, is the fact that people north of the quake’s epicentre were reading about it up to 30 seconds before the earthquake hit their area.

In what has been termed “Twearthquake,” the Twitter frenzy reached more than 40,000 earthquake-related Tweets within a minute of the earthquake starting.  That’s almost 5,500 Tweets per second!  Though this didn’t break Twitter records, it did come close, beating out events like the recent Japanese quake and Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Facebook experienced a similar surge, with over 3,000,000 posts mentioning “earthquake” within the four minutes after the earthquake hit.

While some people used social media to joke about the event or complain about not feeling the quake at all, others took advantage of Twitter and Facebook to contact friends and family when phone lines became overloaded.

This event not only shows how important social networks have become to spreading news about disasters, but it also reflects how much a part of our lives these websites have become.  It has become almost instinctive to instantly reach for social networks as soon as something happens, before doing anything else.  We just hope everyone found safety before getting out their mobiles!