“I’m alive.” I’ve made that call, maybe you have too. That surreal statement instantly erases panic in whomever’s on the other end of the line. It reconstructs a momentarily unglued world.
When I made that call, mobile phones were in their infancy, and landlines were choked by overloaded phone networks. Now a Lebanese woman has developed an app to let you get that most urgent message out loud and clear, “Hey, I am alive!”
Bombings are a frequent reality in Lebanon, and Syria, and Egypt, and Iraq. Sandra Hassan, a Lebanese-born graduate student studying abroad in Paris heard about a car bomb in a Beirut suburb; and the idea was hatched.
“It was a little bit frustrating that, in Lebanon at least, we’re living in a situation that makes such an application necessary or useful,” Hassan told National Public Radio in a recent interview. “My way to express that frustration was to publish this app, kind of as a statement against what was happening, a statement of discontent if you will.”
Lebanon was bombed several times in January, and Hassan said it was stressful trying to contact family and friends to check on their safety. So this student of public health decided to develop an app that allows users to quickly get the message out. With one click, using the internet and avoiding potentially disrupted phone networks, they can instantly tweet the message: “I am still alive!” using with the hashtags #Lebanon and #LatestBombing.
The app is based on Twitter, but Hassan plans updates so that it is compatible with Facebook and could work like an instant messaging independent of social media; a single click to update everyone who wants proof that you are okay.
“I am hopeful that this application can actually help people, not only in conflict zones, but also be used in times of crisis as a result of natural disasters,” Hassan says. “I’ve been getting a lot of requests by people who have seen the application, to make it more international, to remove the hashtag Lebanon and to make it usable by people all over the world.”
She was surprised the app got so much attention, with journalists buzzing on sites like Muck Rack. There hasn’t been a bombing since the app launched, so the next explosion will be its first live test. Oh what times we live in.
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