CRITICAL THINKING | The negative impacts of sharing unverified missing persons cases on social media

Over my hot cocoa this morning, I deeply contemplated for some time if I should even write this. 

Moments later while scrolling through the handful of missing persons and cold case groups I’m in, I came across the fifth case in two days that had been shared thousands of times, only to be proven false. I can’t bite my tongue, or more accurately, halt my hands on this any longer.

Just yesterday, a group of us helped dispel a posting. A young woman was looking for a missing “friend,” very concerned, yet there was no police/missing persons report to be found. 

Through postings on the man’s Facebook, it was discovered he and his friends regularly mentioned his “psycho ex-girlfriend,” who just happened to have the same exact name as the supposed concerned friend that posted him as missing. A post that, by the time this was discovered, had already been shared over a thousand times. 

Why should you always verify information before sharing posts? When you do this, you may unknowingly be helping someone stalk or otherwise infringe on another person’s freedoms. You could be helping a domestic abuser locate his victim. A crazy ex-girlfriend further stalk her ex-boyfriend. You could be helping someone violate healthy boundaries that a person has set for themselves in their personal life. 

If you see a posting that says to contact anyone besides a law enforcement agency, don’t share it. If someone is actually missing, I promise you that no one needs to know their location before authorities. Not even their aunt Susan, or their mom’s friend’s brother’s cousin. Though, there is an exception if the relative is Chuck Norris or Liam Neeson. If family wants to be contacted first, chances are this person is unavailable to their family/friends of their own volition. They have every right to choose not to contact people.

We live in a culture where people only read headlines before they react. Where thousands of people will share misinformation without hesitation or an ounce of their own objective research. Postings that will now continue to circle social media in perpetuity. My ninth grade critical thinking teacher would be appalled at the current state of affairs.

Every time you share a social media posting without verifying information, you are taking crucial attention away from cases that really need it. 

Stop it.