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Is it just me or is it an earthquake?

For a brief period of time, this was the best the internet had ever been. I stared at a dried vase of Trader Joe’s flowers rumbling on my desk for about thirty seconds, but I was too shocked to even comprehend what was happening. Then, I saw these tweets (in this moment of shock, I refuse to call them X posts).

“Did there just be an earthquake in New York?”

“Is that an earthquake???????”

“Does everyone feel this way?”

“That’s one of the reasons I left California”

“So excited we East Coasters can finally get Earthquake Tweets”

Few things happen so suddenly and unify an entire geography—people from New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City, and Massachusetts chimed in on my timeline, each unabashedly sharing our experiences. It’s like old school Twitter where you can post “eat a ham and cheese sandwich” and it’s not ironic. You are invited to say how you really feel, and others do the same. It’s like the old LiveJournal or Facebook status where you could post “feeling sleepy” and never think that no one really cared.

People on Weibo sites (not only X——I see you, blue sky) has determined the scope of the earthquake, confirmed used to bewas, in fact, an earthquake, and people who weren’t online regularly started posting jokes about the situation before they realized what was happening.

“The windows blew so hard the whole house shook?!?” my friend Andrea texted me.

“Andrea, I think there was an earthquake,” I replied. “My apartment just shook and everyone in New York was like EARRHWUAKE.” I couldn’t spell very well during the initial period of surprise.

“I’m going away for the weekend,” Dan texted, watching it all unfold from afar from our scariest location (the Atlanta airport).

It’s like a middle school cafeteria hours after an unexpected fire alarm goes off. We were all filled with a certain naive excitement and awe, jumping out of each other’s amazement and exaggerating our memories of what had happened as if it were some legendary event. Everyone loses focus at work. On Slack, Ron said he thought it was a train and his chair was rocking a little. Matt said that in California, it often feels like a car accident. Dom said she used to live in Los Angeles and this was an absolute earthquake. Brian said that as an East Coast Californian, he didn’t even feel it. I then shared my own riveting description of the brief moment we had just experienced: I thought it was my neighbor’s washing machine.

When Elon Musk acquired Twitter and critics began to flock to platforms like Bluesky, Mastodon, Tumblr (and even those that no longer exist, like Pebble), we mourned the end of an era. In the past, Weibo had only one option, and that was Twitter, unless you were really into open source syndication software before 2022. Moments like this show that the so-called “public town square” does have value – it’s a place where we know we’re not crazy, or that our boiler isn’t exploding, before anyone knows what’s going on.

But when the most populous town squares become more hostile to those who aren’t crypto bros or Tesla shareholders, we’ll realize what we’re missing. On topic, people are talking about cherry blossoms. On Facebook, I was happy to learn that a new grocery store had opened near my house, but no one was talking about the earthquake.

As a lifelong East Coaster, I experienced feelings I had never felt before as the ground shook beneath my feet. As I scroll through my Twitter feed, I immediately feel nostalgic for the best things the internet has given us: a sense of peace, comfort, and camaraderie, and that I’m not alone.

#earthquake

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