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Facebook redeems itself as emergency communication

Finally, Facebook “stalkers” may have helped someone out.

Facebook users employ it as a distraction, a photo album, a networking tool and even sometimes as a joke. Never would I have thought that Facebook could potentially be a life-saver as well.

According to a March 18 Associated Press article, Nitesh Bhakta, a 20-year-old Georgia college student, saved his family from masked intruders when he asked for help via his Facebook status.

A common instant reaction would mostly likely be, “Why didn’t he just use a phone?” 8212; which I will admit was mine as well. Has our generation really gotten to the point where we respond faster to Facebook updates than we would to phone calls or text messages? In an emergency situation, would our first reaction be to update Facebook for help?

However, according to the AP report, Bhakta did not have access to a phone or an escape route at the time. Before quickly climbing into his attic to hide from the intruders that didn’t see him, he impulsively grabbed his laptop. And it’s a good thing, too.

After displaying “HELLLLLLLLP!” as his Facebook status and receiving instant responses, Bhakta asked his friend to call 9-1-1. The police responded to the call and arrived at Bhakta’s house after his grandmother and teenage sister had already been tied up and the house rummaged through, according to the report.

In retrospect, that was quick thinking. Without a phone available, the smartest response would be to reach out through the increasingly popular social networking site. According to Facebook statistics, there are more than 500 million active users with more than 200 million accessing Facebook via their cell phones. According to the statistics, the average user has 130 friends and all users together spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Based on those numbers, I’d say the odds of having your Facebook status viewed are quite in your favor.

Thanks to the quick social media response, police were able to catch one of at least three of the robbers, according to the report. More importantly, the police arrived before the intruders caused any harm to Bhakta’s family.

It was a different way of responding to an emergency, but it worked. This could become a new method for people to request help in a scenario that restricts access to telephones. It may seem silly at first glance, but it definitely beats the alternative of what could have happened.

I may use it to put off studying for a test or writing a paper, but maybe someday it could be used again for a greater good for someone else. And it may make you think twice when going through your Facebook news feed.

Kerri Feczko is a broadcast journalism and political science double major from Flower Mound.

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