Editor’s note: Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez is a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill who lives in Wake Forest. He wrote this blog at the request of WRAL TechWire which was interested in learning first hand from millennials who have grown up with the Internet utilized the net and high tech to follow Hurricane Florence. Be sure to read this post from fellow UNC student and millennial Hannah Lang.

WAKE FOREST – Having lived in Missouri for most of my life, I’m not very used to hurricanes. So last week, after I heard that Hurricane Florence could hit North Carolina, I was constantly checking my phone for updates. From tracking the forecast to watching videos of the damage, I stayed on top of the storm through technology — especially social media.

Yet, while I was browsing my favorite news accounts on Twitter and watching WRAL’s coverage of the storm on TV some people were still getting information mostly from word of mouth.

Even though many people my age are connected to the internet 24/7, the people I interviewed for a story about those who live in mobile homes were not as plugged in. At least one of the residents at the mobile home park did not have a smart phone and did not watch the news on TV, and this made me reflect on how I’d be getting information about the hurricane if I didn’t have a smartphone, or a TV or my favorite medium of communication, Twitter.

Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez and his brother Sebastian pose for a photo dangerously close to a flood creek near their Wake Forest home.

My hurricane experience was defined by Twitter. I first heard about the hurricane from a tweet; I learned that UNC had canceled classes from a tweet by The Daily Tar Heel, and I learned that my high school was being used as a shelter via a tweet by an old classmate.

For a journalist, this platform is one of the most essential tools for sending out information, but during the hurricane I discovered the truth of why Twitter is so convenient — tweets spread like wildfire.

As a modern consumer of media, I expect information to be available at my fingertips whenever I need it, and seeing viral tweets helped feed my hunger for information.

In the course of a couple days I saw tweets with thousands of likes and retweets highlighting the damage the storm caused, including downed power lines and extreme flooding. But I also saw glimpses of hope in tweets about ordinary people helping out their neighbors, and one of a man who rescued dogs from drowning in rising waters.

There’s only so much of disaster one can take, and eventually, I turned to Facebook for a little bit of comic relief. Although I don’t usually use Facebook, I admit the best memes live there. The UNC meme page brought a smile to my face on several occasions with posts about students procrastinating their homework and UNC strapping down its enormous spider statue in preparation for the storm.

Facebook is also the place where I stay in touch with friends and family, and during the week I received plenty of direct messages from friends in the mid-west and family in Mexico asking if I was OK. Finally, I decided to go along with what many of my friends were doing and mark myself “safe” on Facebook to help my friends and family feel a little bit better.

After a couple of hours of laughing at memes on Facebook, I turned to Instagram to see if anybody had posted pictures in the hurricane. I did see photos of the storm from my friend Tyler Fleming at The Sun News in Myrtle beach, but mostly I saw old vacation photos from people wishing they were out of the rain.

By Saturday I was completely overwhelmed from staring at my devices for so long, and I suggested to my siblings that we brave the elements and take a walk. Even though our neighborhood in Wake Forest was spared from the worst of the damage, as we walked along a nearby trail it was clear that Hurricane Florence had come through. A couple of trees alongside the trail had fallen over, and the creek in our neighborhood was more flooded than I had  ever seen it. Of course, I had my phone with me, so I told my sister to take a picture of my brother and I standing on a rock surrounded by the turbulent stream of the creek. I considered posting the picture on Instagram but I thought it might be a little too tacky.

Later in the weekend I got an email saying school would be canceled Monday, and after a short-lived rejoice I realized I had better start on the homework I had been procrastinating. Maybe if I hadn’t been on my phone tracking the hurricane from start to finish I might have started my reading, but then again probably not.