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OP/ED: Using social media as a 9-1-1 stand in should increase the number of Darwin Award recipients
Usually, I'm in line with public opinion, in keeping with the democratic values that drive my very profession.
But a recent Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross just crosses the line for me - away from public opinion and into public hysteria or public stupidity, I can't decide which.
Apparently, about one third of respondents (35 per cent) think emergency services should respond to a request for help posted on social media, 74 per cent of whom believe help would arrive within one hour. Roughly 63 per cent think disaster and emergency response agencies, including fire and police, should be prepared to respond to calls for help that are posted on social media networks.
I don’t know how to say this nicely, so I’m just going to admit flat-out that’s the dumbest damned thing I ever heard.
For starters, I have over 300 Facebook friends, and I miss many of their posts, because it’s just too much to keep up with (yes, my participle is dangling, but my point is sound). Imagine trying to sort through the Facebook posts of the 12,000+ people in the greater Castlegar area. It’s not possible, and even if it were, I’d like to see the time of our emergency responders better applied, you know, saving people. And that’s just in little old Castlegar – imagine the task in more concentrated centres like the lower mainland, or Calgary.
Yes, I figure there’s probably a way to digitally isolate certain hashtags and keywords – but why on earth would we bother with that? Calling 9-1-1 is faster and more logical than opening the laptop and typing out hashtags and keywords – and the resources required to, first, develop software to ping to those, then employing people to sort through the results, many of which would be false alarms, is both staggering and stupid.
I can’t help but wonder how these respondents expect to pay for the army of people that would require, if it’s even possible. More to the point, what’s their objection to picking up a phone? If they can go on their smart phone to post the comment, why can’t they just dial 9-1-1?
And really, you should reassess your friends list if you make such a post and you have to count on first responders to monitor social media and catch it – a couple of years back, I had an online gaming buddy who posted a suicide note on Facebook. I don’t even know the guy, or where he lives, but I contacted American authorities, who then tracked him down and got him to hospital.
I’ve got to wonder about the quality of your Facebook friends if they wouldn’t do likewise. Yes, it’s a crapshoot whether anyone will be online to see your post – which brings me back to the merit of calling 9-1-1.
And what about the privacy issues? I do NOT want to give police, fire or anyone else blanket access to my Facebook posts … and I don’t think I’m alone in that. If you want to monitor my posts, send me a friends request, and I’ll reserve the right to accept or reject it.
How do I maintain that autonomy if I want police, fire, etc., to respond to my emergency posts?
The whole thing is just bizarre. I adore social media …but there’s such thing as taking a good thing too far.
I’m usually very respectful of public opinion, but this is just silly. Call 9-1-1. If you can’t, I’m guessing you’re going to have problems typing a Facebook post. If there’s some element there I’m not seeing and you can type words but not phone numbers, okay. Type the words and expect your friends to respond – or get new friends, would you please?
Asking public emergency services, already strained to the breaking point, to monitor your posts about the bagel you had for lunch in case you choked on same is, to my mind, a request for nomination into the Darwin Awards Association.