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Snowbound but not offline

As Washington-area readers can attest, we've had a little snow this weekend. As in, anywhere from 16 inches to two feet. So that's kept a lot of people in their homes, or at best in their neighborhoods--and in response, most of them seem to have jumped online to post Facebook status updates, Twitter updates, and photos and videos of the winter wonderland outside--and then post their comments on all of the above.

snow_measured.jpg

I felt more than a little peer pressure to make my own contribution by Saturday afternoon, as my Facebook news feed overflowed with prose and photos about snowpocalypse/ snowmaggedon/ snOMG (choose your pun), and my own contribution was one update I wrote from my phone while out on a cross-country ski tour of the surroundings.

I felt even more pressure by Sunday morning, when I still hadn't uploaded my photos.
But I should not have been surprised at the flurry of blizzard blogging. Is there a better use case for online social media than a collective experience that keeps people from meeting in person?

Compare the results to the snowstorm of 1996, when my only way of sharing the joy with distant friends was a series of ecstatic, text-only e-mails with an old classmate in California. Posting any photos would have required waiting for them to get developed, then schlepping over to the newsroom to borrow a scanner. Yes, I think I prefer the 2009 version.

buried_lights.jpg

(It helped that most people seem to have kept power and Internet service throughout the storm this time around. Thanks, electric utilities and Internet providers!)

If you're reading this from behind a snowbank somewhere in the D.C. area, what's your favorite example so far of people using social media to share the snowstorm experience? (If you're reading this from somewhere sunny, admit it: You're jealous, aren't you?)

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 21, 2009; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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Comments

My favorite example is plain ol' e-mail via Yahoo Groups, in particular one for my neighborhood. Updates on store closings, mail delivery, a neighbor needing help shoveling, etc.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | December 21, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

The Post's Capital Weather Gang gave me more info that the news web sites...plus those "slice of life" observations...like the poster that had someone get stuck in his cul-de-sac and leave his car, blocking his driveway. The guy returned and got the car out but we all wondered if he was just gonna walk away and return in the Spring.

Posted by: tbva | December 21, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Huge difference this time around with almost immediate pics on FB and comments on Twitter. Loved hearing others' stories and seeing the pictures. Emailing pictures from my iPhone and seeing pics from others' phones as they were out and about. Kept in touch with people in new ways... a good thing when snowbound in The Valley. The changes in just the last few years are quite phenomenal.

Posted by: LBinVA | December 21, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

I sent my brother in Fairfax, greetings from sunny San Diego, where it was in the low 70s over the weekend.

Posted by: sdcafunnyguru | December 22, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

We spent Saturday looking out our windows at the heavy snowfall and strong winds, and calling family in NY wondering if they had been hit by the snowstorm (no!).

We slept in on Sunday, getting up to a beautiful day. We spent almost all of our daylight time outside, shoveling our path and sidewalk and then digging out our cars, parked on our unplowed DC street. When the sun went down, we walked to the local movie theater (the Avalon). We turned on the computer only to look at DC DOT's interactive snow plow tracking and traffic cameras. Very cool.

With our neighbors, we spent the rest of the day outside helping the older retirees dig out. It was lots of fun.

Snowstorms give us the opportunity to turn off the screens and get outdside. Seems like we don't do much of that anymore!

Posted by: wd3q | December 22, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Twitter conversations started at least two DC flash-mob snowball fights on Sat. afternoon. The one at Dupont Circle was good, old-fashioned clean fun. I videoed it w/my iPhone and posted to my FB page immediately, to the amusement of my friends in sunny Florida. The other flash-mob snowball fight was at 14th & U Streets. This one became almost instantly infamous via Twitter when it turned ugly. Someone threw a snowball at a plainclothed cop's SUV, and he charged out and pulled a gun on them. Videos of that were posted to Twitter and Web sites almost immediately. Washington City Paper's City Desk blog had it online really fast.

Posted by: efstewart | December 22, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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