Vandalia Leader

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Social Media, both a helpful and hurtful tool

Posted on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 10:44 am

Last Wednesday, the Vandalia Police Department issued a missing person’s report as the family of Jennifer Middleton were seeking to find their loved one who had been missing for two years.
The response to this small press release on our Facebook page was amazing. The post was shared 375 times and reached 24,398 people.
Many readers were doing whatever they could to get the word out through their own Facebook list of friends and it didn’t take long for the local department to get solid leads.
This shows us the power of Social Media and how it can be used for good.
Unfortunately, some of the comments on the same post also exposes the negatives of Social Media.
For some reason, many people feel that they can make accusations and speculations that must be true since they developed their own theories that are not based on facts. I know this because the initial press release didn’t offer a lot of information.
It basically said a person was missing, the family wants to find them, and officers need the public’s help in their investigation.
Many readers carelessly hurled negative remarks at the family and even implicated them as a reason for the person to be missing.
My question to those readers is “how do you know?”
“You don’t” is the simple answer.
Our job is to not figure out what happened. That is the job of investigators and the missing person’s loved ones.
Instead of hurling negative remarks towards folks when they know nothing about the situation, I hope in the future that some of these same readers could turn their energy into getting the word out for the family and perhaps taking the time to pray for them as well. I don’t care what the circumstances are, none of us likely want to be in a position where you don’t know what to do because you haven’t heard from a loved one and you end up being scared for their wellbeing. My heart aches for families going through these types of searches.
Please join me in praying for this family and other families who have missing loved ones.
I thank the many readers who tagged their friends and used Facebook the best way they could to get the word out this past week.
It’s humbling to see how a small, weekly newspaper’s Facebook page and website can reach 25,000-50,000 people in a short amount of time.