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7 Tips on Using Facebook to Find a Friend Gone Missing

Perspiration rolling down my temples, I jog over to my car barely having cut a workout at the gym’s last open hour.

Whew! Close call, I think to myself. Popping out my earphones, I notice a Facebook notification on my phone: “Megan Winkelman invited you to like her new Page ‘Find Chris and JP in Nepal.’”

A year ago when I moved to the Bay Area to work at SAP, one of my best friends from college referred me to Chris, who then introduced me to his massive group of terribly caring friends including Meg and JP. In March, Chris left the Bay to embark on a backpacking odyssey to explore our great wide world.

So Chris is in Nepal …sweet! My ambling mind – apparently still back on the treadmill – manages to focus on the page:


Whoa, Chris and JP in the Himalayas…where a blizzard and avalanche hit…two days ago. Really? No word yet? They’re probably pretty remote, but Chris used to work at Google. He’d hack that in minutes…

My brain decides to ditch the treadmill and hit the spinning machine. So does my stomach. Spin, spin, spin…

Cutting to the chase, the venturesome fellows were tracked in a matter of hours – all through Facebook spearheaded by dedicated friends like Meg and Adam Creasman, the search page co-creator.

What can you do in a similar bind to track someone or get tracked with nothing but Facebook at your fingertips? Believe it or not, Facebook’s recommendations are slim to none. Your brain’s on spin-mode and the clock is ticking. For starters, here are 7 lessons I learned from the hunt for Chris and JP:

You’re the Primary Tracker (like Meg and Adam)

1. Make a search page like Meg and Adam did for the people you’re tracking including:

    1. The facts: who, what, where, when, and current photos. Keep it clear and concise.
    2. Instructions: this page has tools like a template email with targeted questions to help readers think through specific pieces of information.
    3. Action-Oriented Title: “Find,” “Help,” “Do This.” Why? I don’t know about you, but I get Page “Like” requests every single day.
    4. Encouragement that any small action or insight will make a difference.

2. Notify and check central Facebook search efforts. Chris and JP’s “found” notification was posted here by someone named Maruska Giacchetto who saw the “Find Chris and JP” page, and was Facebook messaging with someone in the same vicinity as the guys.

You’re the Secondary Tracker (like myself, and all others invited to the page)

3. Share the search page on your timeline tagging people and groups you think could help.

4. Post the page directly to targeted groups and friends’ timelines. Message them directly.

5. Keep checking the search page[s] for updates and notify those you’ve shared with once people have been found. Otherwise people might keep reaching out.

You’re the “Trackee” (like Chris and JP)

6. Get to safety. Don’t be posting up selfies when you’re in the line of fire!

7. HOLLER. Seriously, drop a line. Before Mom reads the news, if possible.

BUT the Himalayas are in the boonies (aka no internet): Text someone or have someone else text someone with internet to relay the message.

BUT the Himalayas are in the super boonies (aka no phone service): If you’re really on an island without two sticks to make a smoke signal, okay. Chris and JP were heard from within 5 hours of the Facebook hunt – 48 hours after the avalanche.

Personally, when I found myself 40 meters away from an LAX gunman during open fire a year ago, my first move upon getting to safety was to text my parents “I’m okay,” which they appreciated.

While this guide primarily includes Facebook to-do’s (and sub-to-do’s), other best practices include notifying authorities such as embassies, and keeping up with news and public notices on what trackers and trackees should do.

If you’re reading this and are associated with press, I would recommend including any centralized public instruction for trackers and trackees when reporting events like these in the future. Many of us must have been scanning the same dozen articles to look for information to no avail.

At the end of the day, one can imagine how this sequence of events certainly put “cutting it close” and “breaking a sweat” into perspective for me. For the other thousands invited to this page, I imagine they experienced a similar stand-still amid their day-to-day. More powerfully, the event served as a personal reminder of how connected we all truly are, and how social networks can ultimately have big collective impact when activated by each of us playing a small yet consequential role. 

Do you have helpful tips to add? Comment below or tweet @apolack. For more information:

The play-by-play of updates during the hunt, check out “Find Chris and JP in Nepal.”

Facebook’s recommendations on Using Social Media Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster

And finally, the internal monologue of my brain on the spinning machine:

Uh, WHAT?! Okay,share page on my timeline… Facebook search “Nepal” to stalk friends who’ve tagged themselves there previously. Tag them to my timeline post. Email template email to that one speaker I met at that one conference who said she lived in Nepal. It was Nepal, right? Google the conference. Google the speaker. Google “Nepal.” WHAT IS NEPAL?  (Admit it, you would have Googled Nepal too.)

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