It’s nearly 1 a.m. and I am glued to my computer watching the Twitter “tweets” from folks in California experiencing a 5.0 earthquake. By chance, I was online and saw a message come through that an earthquake was rattling Central L.A. I searched for the keyword and watched a steady stream of communication come through that expressed many human emotions — fear, relief and humor.

This is a significant event for two reasons. First, this is the first natural disaster since Twitter reached a critical mass of users in the last few months. Without the numbers supporting it, it could not have been an effective “personal broadcast channel.” I witnessed the power of in-the-moment communication through thousands of perspectives.

Second, because of the platform’s immediacy, eyewitness accounts of the quake were streaming out of the city before the traditional media could catch up. In fact, 12 minutes after the news was streaming out of L.A. on Twitter, there was still no post on the CNN website.

Yes, most of the communication I’m seeing is garbage … one fellow posted, “If Twitter is the future of news, and it’s 20,000 stories in 5 minutes saying “there was totally just an earthquake” … we’re in trouble.”

And there is a lot of humor, too. (“To minimize loss and damage in a quake, try not to own things.”) … probably because the natural disaster apparently is not too serious this time.

But woven through the OMG’s and LMAO’s was a compelling thread of humanity and an entirely new way to experience a current event. The next time there is a terrorist attack or crisis, many will “tune in” to Twitter for their news.

Twitter grew up tonight.

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