Facebook: A Life Saver?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It comes by no surprise to readers that if Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world after China and India with over 500 million active users. And like every country it too has its share of virtues and vices.

Being the largest social network site, Facebook has become one of the most pervasive mediums making it unavoidable for anyone to not take interest in it. But it is more than just a place to meet and connect with ‘friends’.

Facebook is so powerful that it not only gets people hitched but also breaks them up. It has the ability to trigger protests and stop wars; save lives while becoming a point of contact for someone contemplating death. Facebook has groups where users can shed grief and remorse but can also resort to online bullying and hatred.

With millions of users are exposed to this and more, “Facebook is under increasing pressure unlike other social networks to be a bit more responsible on what happens on their site,” said Rory-Cellan Johnes, Technology correspondent on BBC.

Johnes added that the social network are currently under pressure by regulators from all over the world, particularly the UK to do more, to look after users that are vulnerable and young.

Simone Back, 42, of Brighton, UK, updated her status that read, "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone." at 10:53PM on Christmas Day 2010.

On January 6th 2011, The Daily Mail reported the story of Back's suicide. The charity worker had a history of depression. The paper spoke to her mother, Jennifer Langridge, who pointed out that her daughter had 1082 Facebook friends but not one of them responded to her cry for help in-person or contacted her mother.
Back's last status update was, in fact, seen by a number of her Facebook friends. Some responded with nasty comments but no one took her threat seriously enough, cared enough, felt comfortable intervening, or knew what to do.

According to the Daily Mail report, "Facebook friends from out of town begged online for her address and telephone number so they could get help, none of those who lived closer did anything to help."

This is just one among several incidents on Facebook that acted as a catalyst for the social network to adopt and launch a system that allows users to 'report' friends who they think may be contemplating suicide.

Anyone worried about a friend can fill out a form, detailing their concerns, which is passed to the site's moderators. It follows reports of several cases where Facebook users announced their intention to commit suicide online.

The reporting page asks for the address (URL) of the Facebook page where the messages are posted, the full name of the user and details of any networks they are members of.

Suicide-related alerts will be escalated to the highest level, for attention by Facebook's user operations team.
This feature has become active since the beginning of March 2011 and is being run in conjunction with the Samaritans, which said several people had used it during a test phase. So far the system had been operating in a trial mode, without publicity for three months, during which it received several genuine reports and no hoaxes, according to Samaritans.

It is hoped that the new reporting mechanism will help prevent cases like that of Simone Back, who died on Christmas day after taking a drug overdose.

Samaritans added that the new system was not launched in relation to one specific case, but to raise awareness of the ways in which people could get help.

“Some Facebook friendships are very distant acquaintances, at best.” said Dr. Irene S. Levine on PsychologyToday.com. 

Levine, a psychology professor added that we live in the same virtual community, we are neighbours. When you have any suspicion that someone's health or safety may be compromised, it's always better to say something than regret doing nothing.

With this in light, it’s obvious how a range of industries have started using Facebook and social networks to their advantage. 

"Organisations now understand the value of collaborating using public consumer tools like Facebook," said David Lavenda, WorkLight's vice president of marketing and product strategy.

Media stations, advertisers, public relations, marketing and event agencies are some markets desperately trying to gain the consumers attention by using Facebook as a promotional tool. Police and Forensics implement Facebook into their work by finding and identifying suspects and criminals. 

On a medical front, patients share their symptoms on Facebook only to be helped by friendly doctors and advised by friends. 

Not a medical forum but Facebook saved Kate Robb's life 

And this isn’t quarter of the list. With all this in mind, one can’t help but wonder what Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook must be thinking, bet he never thought his site would help people in such a manner and extent.


Post a Comment