Facebook status message: ‘Help, I’m about to drown’

Actually, the exact status message hasn’t been released, and I doubt it was as dire as my headline. Still, this story could well have turned out to be too tragic to joke about.

Here’s the deal. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper site reported earlier this week on the plight of two girls lost in a storm drain in a suburb of Adelaide, Australia.

So what did the girls, aged 10 and 12 do? They quickly changed their status updates on Facebook using their mobile phones to alert friends and family of their plight. The girls were rescued Sunday night after a friend who was online at the time decided it wasn’t some weird gag and called the police.

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Fortunately, an ambulance crew arrived on the scene in time and the girls were rescued unharmed. The Telegraph quotes a fire department spokesman as saying the storm drains are prone to flash flooding and it’s a good thing someone saw the status updates and started the rescue effort.

The spokesman also said that if the girls could access Facebook, they could just as easily have dialed the Australian equivalent of 911 to get to the police directly “and we could have got there quicker than relying on someone being online and replying to them and eventually having to call us” anyway, he said.

It’s been clear for some time the younger generation sees e-mail as old school, apparently using a phone to make phone calls is also rapidly becoming so “yesterday.”

“For these kids, by the sounds of it, being on Facebook is just such a pervasive part of their lives that it seems the first line of response if they need to communicate a message to others,” the Telegraph quotes Terry Flew, professor of Media and Communications at the Queensland University of Technology.

In this very dangerous case, social networking saved the day. But I hope it’s not put to the test again when there are quicker, albeit old school, options.

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