Twitter connections are saving lives

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Twitter connections are saving lives


Twitter-user “artist-yoon” posted a message Aug. 28 saying that a Canadian expat friend, Michael Simning, 37, urgently needed a donation of blood type B, RH negative, which is a rare type in Korea.

“Can anyone who wants to help him out please the spread word and re-tweet this message?”

Simnings, who hosts a radio program, City of Light, which gives expatriates tips about living in Gwangju and South Jeolla, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Aug. 27. Without a donation, Simning was doomed.

Until Twitter.

The original message was instantly forwarded by artist-yoon’s four followers and it then spread to more than 100 people after MBC anchor and journalist Kim Ju-ha re-tweeted it on her Twitter board.

Twitter-user “Sollip 1004” in Yeosu of South Jeolla replied on Aug. 30 that he would head to Gwangju because Simning’s blood type matched his.

Others promised they would send Simning their blood donor cards, and three of the seven people who promised to donate blood kept their word.

“Thank you all,” artist-yoon wrote on Aug. 29, “This is really touching.”

Twitter, which was created to let users keep in touch with friends online with 140-word messages, is evolving and affecting people’s lives in unforeseen ways.

Kim Mi-young, producer of Simning’s radio program, told the JoongAng Daily that Simning is recuperating and will probably return to his radio show in two or three months. Kim said Simning and his family are very happy about the situation.

“Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter spread the word about him, and it worked,” Kim said.

The Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK) recently formed a blood bank register on its Web site ( to help people needing types that are rare for Koreans and foreigners.

“The ATEK blood bank is relatively new but functional,” said Dale Coker, the chair of ATEK Emergency Needs. “The idea for the blood bank emerged when Simning’s emergency case became a national concern, and some ATEK members realized that there was a diversity of blood types within the foreign teaching community that might require the acquisition of rarer blood types. The blood bank should enable ATEK to help hospitalized people with a variety of blood types.”

Lee Sul-ah, a company worker, said for six months she’s been accessing Twitter every day to write about her daily life but there’s even more.

“As a vegetarian, it’s hard to get helpful tips and information, and I now find some answers through Twitter,” said Lee, 26. “The best feature is that you can send or forward yours or other’s message to many people with one click.”

High profile figures like celebrities and business leaders are often seen on Twitter. Two prominent business leaders - Doosan Corp. Chairman Park Yong-maan ( and Shinsegae Vice President Chung Yong-jin ( - reply to questions or messages posted by their followers.

Some critics say there is a dark side to the increased use of Twitter in Korea.

In June, a 27-year-old Korean D.J. surnamed Lee who worked in Hongdae clubs posted a short message of his suicide. Police discovered his body on a yacht dock near the Han River two days later. He had hanged himself.

When Twitter users come across a suicidal message, psychologists advise them to forward the message to others or reply to the person to show he or she is not alone. Such users, psychologists say, perceive Twitter as their last channel for communication with others.

One late night in July, another Twitter user wrote a message saying that life was hard and he wanted to give up.

Concerned Twitter users replied, urging him not to commit suicide, and he changed his mind one hour later.

“Your heartfelt messages made me think over my decision. Thank you,” the user wrote.

“Police are mulling over receiving reports and tips about crimes through Twitter as Twitter use is growing,” a police official at the National Police Agency said. “But the fastest and surest way to report matters to police is dialing 112 at this point.”

By Kim Mi-ju []
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