Social Networking Sites Prove Their Worth: “Twitter,” says student, “Got me out of jail”

Most of the time, social networking sites are only discussed when devious, nasty, and vicious things occur. For instance, many parents have decried places like YouTube, and its variants, to be “evil,” and an infernal, virtual breeding ground that prey on teens’ desire for instant “web-celebrity” status – a type of immediate stardom in which individuals will even beat up others just to enjoy 15 minutes of fame.

There was the case in 2007 and most recently in 2008, in which teen girls were lured to a home and then beaten – all of it caught on camera. Indeed, it is easy to conclude that the transferal of information via the Internet is pernicious in so many ways.

That’s why this story about James Karl Buck is particularly refreshing, and points to the ways in which social networking sites can be useful in serious situations. Buck is a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley. On April 10th, he was arrested in Egypt when covering an anti-government protest as a student reporter.

Buck had the wherewithal to text just one word – “Arrested” – on Twitter as soon as he was apprehended. Usually, people bemoan the loss of slowness as they critique the “information highway” and all the putative evils that it has caused with regard to sophisticated language and the nuanced ways in which people “used” to discuss things.

Suffice to say, this story gives us pause – it is simplicity at its best; Buck used Twitter in order to escape a perilous situation. Through Twitter, Buck was able to spread the word – instantaneously – of his whereabouts. Even more importantly, he was able to convey the fact that he needed help and fast. With that one word and a few other texts, Buck got the ball moving, and was quickly set free.

When one considers Buck’s situation, maybe texting isn’t such a bad thing?

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