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The hashtag of a storm

The East Coast woke up under a blanket of snow this weekend and collectively documented the experience on the myriad social and mobile inventions of the past decade. Facebook, Twitter and other technologies make it increasingly difficult to stay isolated,even if you're stuck home alone.

"The funny thing is that I actually checked my Instagram feed before I even looked out my own window," says Eric Witz, who lives in Medford, Mass.

On Saturday, Witz posted a photo of his car stuck under a "6-foot-high snow drift". "I always have my phone on me. So checking these things is something I do instinctively when I wake up," he says. "That probably makes me a sad social media cliche, but it's the truth."

As Northeasterners posted photo after photo of kids sledding in Central Park and suburbanites conquering Mt. Snowmore with their shovels, West Coast wags teased with tweets of sunshine and snapshots of palm trees.

Call it what you will: The Hashtag Snowstorm, the latest Snowpocalypse or Snowtorious B.I.G. The weekend whiteout was a lifetime away from the blizzard of 1978, a world not just without social media but one devoid of endless Weather Channel warnings and the lifeline of mobile phones. Even the last two years have upended the way we receive information. We've moved from text to photos and videos taken on smart phones and we can't let go.

Kathy Tracy was in junior high school when that famous snowstorm hit Westhaven, Conn., 35 years ago. She still lives there today and some things haven't changed. Snow is still snow, and people still wait for the streets to be cleared, hoping there is enough food and toilet paper to get by.

"The roads were so bad that my father and I took a sled and walked two miles to the grocery store," says Tracy recalling the '78 storm that left as much as 69 centimetres of snow on the Northeast.

Getting updates of the '78 blizzard meant turning on the radio or watching evening news programs. This weekend, Tracy says she turned to Twitter and nonstop news coverage to stay informed.

The Canadian Press


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