Home Technology Is it just me, or was that an earthquake?

Is it just me, or was that an earthquake?

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For just a brief moment, this was the internet at its best. I stared at a vase of dried out Trader Joe’s flowers, rumbling on my table for maybe 30 seconds, but I was too shocked to even process what was happening. Then I saw the tweets (which, in this moment of shock, I refuse to call X posts).

“DID WE JUST HAVE AN EARTHQUAKE IN NEW YORK?”

“was that an earthquake??????”

“did everyone just feel that?”

“THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS I MOVED AWAY FROM CALIFORNIA”

“So excited that us east coasters can finally get earthquake Twitter”

People on microblogging sites (it wasn’t just X — I see you, Bluesky) had already determined the scope of the earthquake, confirmed it was, in fact, an earthquake, and began posting jokes about the situation before the less chronically online people even realized what happened.

It’s rare that something happens so suddenly that it unifies an entire geographic region — people from New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City and Massachusetts chimed in on my timeline, each unabashedly sharing our experiences. It’s like the old school Twitter, where you could post “eating a ham and cheese sandwich” and it wasn’t ironic. You were invited to say exactly how you felt, and everyone else was doing it too. It’s like old LiveJournal or Facebook statuses, where you could post “is feeling sleepy” and never consider that no one really cares.

It’s like a middle school cafeteria, hours after an unplanned fire alarm goes off. We’re all still buzzing with a certain naive excitement and awe, bouncing off of each other’s surprise and exaggerating our memory of what happened, like it was some legendary event. Everyone has lost focus at work. On Slack, Ron says he thought it was a train, and his chair shook a little. Matt says that in California, it usually feels like a car crash. Dom says she used to live in LA, and this was definitely an earthquake. Brian said, as a Californian on the East Coast, he didn’t even feel it. Then I share my own riveting account of this brief moment we all just experienced: I thought it was my neighbor’s washing machine.

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, and critics embarked on a mass exodus to platforms like Bluesky, Mastodon, Tumblr, and even ones that no longer exist, like Pebble, we mourned the end of an era. There used to be just one option for microblogging, and it was Twitter, unless you were really into open source federated software before 2022. Moments like these show that there really is value in the “public town square” — it’s a way for us to know that we aren’t crazy, or our boiler isn’t exploding, before anyone even knows what’s going on.

But when the most populous town square is becoming actively more hostile to people who aren’t crypto bros or Tesla stockholders, we get a sense of what we’re missing. On Threads, people are talking about cherry blossoms. On Facebook, I am delighted to learn there is a new grocery store coming to my neighborhood, but no one is talking about the earthquake.

As a lifelong East Coaster, I experienced something I’ve never felt before as the ground shook beneath me. And immediately, scrolling through my Twitter feed, I felt nostalgic for what the internet gives us at its best: a sense of calm, comfort, camaraderie and reassurance that I wasn’t alone.



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