Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Social capital and Facebook use of Tacloban City after Super Typhoon Haiyan

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posted on 2022-07-28, 00:59 authored by Fontamillas, Arla E.

This case study examined the extent to which social media can help build and strengthen the social capital of communities in the face of natural disasters. It investigated Tacloban City, an area hit hardest by Super Typhoon Haiyan on 08 November 2013. Haiyan is considered as the most powerful tropical cyclone in recorded human history. With the vast international attention it received, it also highlighted the growing role of Facebook in facilitating and influencing disaster aid and response, particularly in a developing country such as the Philippines.

Social capital describes how networks and resources within the community are made available to people through their connections with others. This concept is gaining popularity because of the increasing role of social media during disasters. While its effects on the behaviour of people in disasters are generally perceived to be useful, few studies have actually examined how social media changes the way people mobilise themselves in a disaster-stricken and politically tensed society.

Separate interviews and focus group discussions among selected residents of two coastal communities (Barangays 89 and 48-B), selected members of two local NGOs (Community & Family Services International and Operation Blessing - Visayas), and three members of the city government (vice-mayor, urban and environmental consultant, and city councillor) revealed that Facebook extended the geography of the social capital of Tacloban City after Super Typhoon Haiyan. It allowed the survivors to inform their families and relatives, who are residing in different countries, of their condition and consequently receive physical help, like money and goods, from them.

However, as a mediated form of communication, Facebook was limited in addressing the socio-political realities of Tacloban City, which was marked by widespread mistrust and uncertainty. Paradoxically, Facebook has amplified the structural inequalities already present in Tacloban City before it was hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan. While it enhanced strong ties, it has failed to forge weaker ties. As a result, it has instead widened the gap between those who have more power over the access to resources and those who have less.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

970108 Expanding Knowledhe in the Information and Computing Sciences; 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John