On March 27, 2016, Facebook activated its ‘Safety Check’ feature for users in Lahore, Pakistan to warn them of a suicide bombing that occurred. The only problem with the ‘Safety Check’ that went out on March 27 was that a countless number of people from around the world received the Lahore alert that were nowhere near Pakistan.
Facebook’s ‘Safety Check’ is a cutting edge tool that checks in with users nearby a disaster to see if they are safe. Not only can ‘Safety Check’ warn people unaware of the nearby danger what’s going on, but it also checks in with users so that Facebook can notify the user’s friends and family of their status. It may not sound like much, but it is.
For instance, let’s say you’re watching TV, and an emergency news alert flashes across the screen: there’s been a bombing in a major city with multiple casualties. No one knows how or why these bombings occurred, but they do know what they occurred in the same city your brother is studying abroad in. As you freak out and try to contact your brother (which is close to impossible during a disaster), you get a Facebook ‘Safety Check’ notification from your brother saying he and his classmates are safe. You sigh with relief and hope every other person in that city can send the same ‘Safety Check’ good news to their friends and family. In a situation like this, ‘Safety Check’ really can make a difference.
The ‘Safety Check’ feature was launched in 2014 with the intention of being used in the case of earthquakes or floods, but the feature was actually used for the first time after the Paris terrorist attacks. Last year, over a billion people received a ‘Safety Check’ notification. That’s a billion prayers answered, a billion sighs of relief.
What I'm most confused by is that, for some reason, there were Facebook users complaining about the glitch and calling ‘Safety Check’ a problem. Because of these remarks, Facebook released a statement apologizing for the bug. These people are mad there was a Facebook feature that notified them of something that happened in Lahore, but they don’t even mention the 72 souls that were lost due to a suicide bomber.
I’m not the most up-to-date person. I share way too many online articles written by millennial post-grads trying to define themselves, I would rather check CNN's Breaking News Twitter than read the New York Times subscription I have emailed to me daily, and I’m just an all-around selfish person. But maybe this ‘Safety Check’ glitch was a wake up call. Maybe instead of being notified whenever Stacy changes her profile picture, I should be getting updates of international news and politics that will affect my future. Imagine a world in which Facebook alerts you about something that actually matters.
I know, crazy, right?