Using Facebook for good

Back in 2010, I used Facebook significantly more than any other social media platform. I made statuses, posted pictures, wrote notes, liked everything my friends posted, and wrote on my friends’ walls more than I should have. Today, I barely use Facebook. I still get on and look at pictures my friends post and, whenever I get around to it, I post pictures of what I’ve been up to. Beyond looking at my newsfeed and the occasional Facebook-stalking session, I don’t use it for anything meaningful.

Though I’m no longer a Facebook-enthusiast, the site is still experiencing success. Facebook Newsroom reports that there were 1.35 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2014. That’s an incredibly large number considering the world’s population is more than 7 billion people.

Many have realized that Facebook offers businesses a great opportunity to reach a large group of people, and advertising is used in many places in the site. As a user myself, I’m not a fan of sponsored content, or ads that line the sidebar of the page though they benefit businesses.

Facebook is partnering with an organization that I expect will garner a different reaction than when one sees an advertisement. Facebook has joined forces with National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The NCMEC sends Amber Alerts to law enforcement, news sources, transportation agencies, and now to cell phone users through the Wireless Emergency Alerts program, when a child has been abducted. The Department of Justice’s Amber Alert program describes the goal of an Amber Alert as “to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.”

This program developed with Facebook and the NCMEC will post Amber Alerts to the newsfeeds of users on both desktop and mobile versions of the site, targeting those near the search area. All Facebook users will be automatically enrolled in the program and do not have the option to opt-out of the alerts.  It went live yesterday, January 13.

I think this program is genius. Why not take advantage of this massive network of people who log in almost every day to help save the lives of missing children? A better question is, why haven’t we done it until now?

By placing the Amber Alerts on the newsfeeds of people in the area the search is taking place in, it increases the chances that someone will have a valuable piece of information to help find the missing child. Using this technology and reaching so many people at once, and being able to update them throughout the process, wasn’t possible 50, or even 20, years ago.

I can’t say I look forward to getting an Amber Alert (for obvious reasons), but I imagine I’ll see one sooner rather than later and at some point, I’ll forget there was a time we didn’t see them on Facebook. But until that day happens, I’m excited about this partnership. I hope it can help bring more children home safely.