When I signed in to Facebook this morning, the first thing I saw wasn't the latest celebrity gossip or grumpy cat meme - it was this Amber Alert for a missing five year-old girl:
Now, in the time it took to write this post, little Julia was found. She's safe and sound. And that's amazing. However, this post isn't about one particular child, but about how information gets disseminated to the masses.
For all its flaws - and there many - the world's social network is winning in some areas. Previously, you wouldn't hear about abduction alerts and missing child cases until the evening news (assuming you watched the news at all).
Facebook expedited that process, with news travelling from social circle to social circle, share by share. Even then, it was a painful, somewhat fluky process.
Not so anymore. The automatically generated Ambert Alert was the first thing I saw in my newsfeed. It was probably the first thing you saw, too. I didn't see it via a friend or a neighbour's post, either.
In doing so, Facebook has cast the net wide, and this is huge for the likes of York Regional Police. With all eyes and ears open, the likelihood for tracking down missing persons is infinitely greater. Such alerts give children the best chance of coming home safely. Such alerts give worried-sick parents a degree of comfort knowing everyone is on the lookout.
So by all means, read the alerts and share them. And be sure to let others know the moment children like Julia are found. Social networking means we all play a vital part.