Thursday, October 20, 2011

The power of social media

Last week my Missing Manitoba Women Facebook page helped located a 14-year-old missing girl.

(Wow, the power of social media never ceases to amaze me.)

This girl's mom, Shannon Buck, posted her daughter, Lauren Chopek's picture on my page. The girl didn't return home from school the day before, and Buck was going out of her mind. I messaged Buck, and she sent me a missing poster and asked if I could post it on my page. Since the poster was in a Word document format, I quickly laid it out in InDesign and posted the JPG to my wall.

Lauren's poster went viral; people from all over the world started reposting it and sending well wishes to her family. People in places like Germany, India, Australia, the US, Europe...The entire world was looking for this girl. It was incredible to see.

I kept in touch with Lauren's mom through facebook on a day-to-day basis, thinking the girl would come home within a couple of days. However, each day I would get the same response from Buck: "She is not home." By this point, I think both of us started to freak out even more. Since I'm a CreComm student, I pulled some of my "CreComm Mafia super powers" and sent out a mass email and a plea on Twitter for my media friends to pick up Lauren's story. (Thank the Lord for Twitter!)

The first story about Lauren ran on CBC on October 13. (Click here to watch the clip)

Following CBC's story, Buck's plea was also answered by the Winnipeg Sun, The Metro Winnipeg.

Last Saturday morning I woke up to a text from Buck. "Lauren is home." It was surreal, I was really starting to get scared that something bad had happened. (I kept telling Buck that she'd be fine, because I really thought she would be, but when more days passed and Lauren wasn't found I started to get really scared.)

Later Saturday morning I got a message on Facebook from one of my Facebook friends, Jackie Traverse; she told me that she found Lauren the night before at a Winnipeg Hotel. Jackie, an Aboriginal artist and missing and murdered women advocate said that she was having a few drinks at the hotel when she spotted the girl. She said she recognized her from the pictures from the Missing Manitoba Women page. Jackie went to talk to Lauren, and made her call her mom, and then waited with Lauren until her mother picked her up. She is a true hero.

Thanks to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and all of the people who posted, and re-posted Lauren's picture, the girl was found and reunited with her family.

Click here to see Global's coverage of the story after Lauren was found.