Will Social Media become the Primary Line of Communication?

It’s not just a cliché; when people get lost, they really do tend to walk in circles. According to research by psychologist Jan Souman; only when the sun or moon was visible as a reference could the subjects walk in a straight line. Otherwise, they often traced circles without ever realizing it. Reference points are a good thing because humans are perhaps the greatest wanders on the planet. From below sea level at Death Valley to Mount Everest, the highest point on earth, it seems we have a basic compulsion to see what’s over the hill. Or under the hill as was the case with two young girls in South Australia.

Walking through storm drains is known as “urban exploring” and has a popular sub-culture following in many major cities. As reported by the Adelaide Metropolitan Fire Service two young girls found themselves lost in a drain system while on such an exploring adventure. Underground the girls lost their frame of reference … they did have their cell phones though. However; rather than call their parents or 000 (911 in the U.S.) they used their mobile devices to send a message for help out to their friends via Facebook. Glenn Benham from the MFS said it was fortunate a young friend was online at the time and was able to call help for them; although the youth’s fixation on Facebook actually delayed their rescue by hours.

“If they were able to access Facebook from their mobile phones, they could have called triple-0, so the point being they could have called us directly and we could have got there quicker than relying on someone being online and replying to them and eventually having to call us via triple-0 anyway.”

Why did they choose to reach out to their friends on Facebook rather than just call for help? My guess is because they didn’t want mom, dad or any authority figure to hear directly from them that they were exploring areas that were off-limits to begin with. You can imagine how that conversation might have sounded:

Ring … Ring … Ring

Father: Hello

Daughter: Dad, I’m lost… help me!

Father: What do you mean you’re lost? You’re calling on your cell phone … where are you calling from?

Daughter: Well, you know that storm drain you told me never to play around? I went inside to explore and now I don’t really know where I am … or how to get out.

Father: I’ll get help … but when this is done … you are so grounded!

OK, the “grounded” part of the conversation might actually wait until after the rescue, but I think you get my meaning. But what if the fear of getting in trouble really wasn’t the motivating factor for not making a direct call to an authority figure? It’s interesting to consider that social media may have become such a pervasive part of their lives that it was the natural first line of response for communicating a message to others. It’s something to think about as you consider your marketing communication channels.

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