One of the most powerful earthquakes on record, followed by a devastating tsunami and the threat of nuclear disaster. More than 12,000 dead or missing. Mass destruction on an almost incalculable level.

The news from Japan during the past week grows worse with each passing day. But amidst the cataclysm of death and horror, Japanese citizens can take comfort in one thing:

Snooki feels bad for them.

“OMG just watched the news!” the “Jersey Shore” star tweeted as the carnage unfolded last week. “My prayers go out to Japan!”

I don’t know about you, but if I just lost my home, my family and my livelihood — and was facing the threat of a slow, painful, radiation-induced death to boot — I would breathe a sigh of relief at the news that a hard-partying, foul-talking, constantly inebriated reality TV star took the time to tweet her feelings, which were promptly distributed to the press.

But what’s even better? She wasn’t the only one. Yay!

“GLUED to the tv since early this morning,” tweeted Paula Abdul. “Japan’s heartwrenching disaster is just unbelievable.”

Bethenny Frankel: “I cannot believe we have another natural disaster in this world again.praying…”

Even Charlie Sheen took time out from drinking tiger blood and using his plus-10 magic warlock powers to inflict damage points on the producers of “Two and a Half Men” to honor the masses with a tweet: “Curveball; Warlock edict; pain & devastation in Japan demands us all to dig deep & LOVE THEM VIOLENTLY Dogspeed my cadres of the Far East! C” (Hey, I didn’t say they all made sense.)

Technology now allows celebrities to express themselves in mere seconds instead of the old cumbersome practice of sending out press releases via a publicist. So instead of wondering how Justin Bieber or Jimmy Kimmel feel about world tragedy — isn’t that the first thing on our minds? — we can find out instantly.

But even if their motives are sincere, it still smacks of self-promotion at the expense of another’s suffering.

We all feel horrible about the disaster in Japan. Who would take pleasure in another’s misery, after all? (Oh, wait — Westboro Baptist Church.) Most people don’t. They feel shock, they feel sorrow, they feel sympathy for victims. It’s what makes us human.

But celebrities feel that somehow it’s important others know that they feel horrible. So they send out tweets, and they go on talk shows, and they post messages on Facebook, and on and on. Thus, what may have begun as an expression of sincere human emotion is quickly cheapened into a grandstanding publicity grab.

I have nothing against celebrities lending their name to a cause or using their star status to help raise money for the afflicted. Telethons, benefit concerts, rallies — I’m all for it.

And to be fair, some celebrities did appeal to their fans to contribute to aid efforts via tweets, including Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry. (If you would like to help out the victims online, visit the Red Cross’ Facebook page: www.causes.com/campaigns/154523).

But for the others, I have my own message — which, in keeping with the spirit of things, I will also post on Twitter:

“It’s not always about you.”

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]