In case of emergency… update your Facebook status?

By Matter

Last month, I read a post on Webware about two Australian girls who were trapped in a storm drain. Instead of dialing the Australian equivalent of 911, they asked for help by using their cell phones to update their Facebook profiles. Nearly a month later, I’m still floored by the absurdity of the situation. Thankfully, the girls were rescued, but I continue to wonder why, with a perfectly good cell phone in hand, they didn’t think to dial for help the conventional way.

I’m quite certain that in the case of an emergency, my first instinct would be to dial 911; but the post did get me thinking about my own reliance on Facebook and other social networking tools. Am I, like the two girls, becoming too dependent on social networking sites? Are we, as communications professionals, turning to Facebook, Twitter and the like too often for research and pitching?

Undoubtedly the integration of such tools into our work is necessary and valuable. More and more, I personally am using Facebook and Twitter to connect with writers and editors, to share news about my clients and to stay on top of industry happenings. These days, I even find myself reading most news headlines on Twitter, pulling me away some from the news outlets I used to frequent. I think this is a normal progression in keeping up with the times, but every once in a while, I also think it’s worthwhile to take a step back to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves how our use of social networking tools is (or isn’t) making us better at our jobs and leading to results for our clients. The story of the girls in the drain reminded me of this.

TheElectricWaffle provided some additional food for thought on this topic a while back: if social media failed to exist tomorrow, what impact would it have on your work? I’m truly interested to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, as social networking continues to be an integral part of our daily lives, I hope we won’t forget to use the many public relations tools we have in our arsenal; social networking sites constitute just one variety.

Oh, and if you find yourself in an emergency, please just call 911.