There are 2.8 billion active Facebook users, so you can imagine the number of posts that get published each year. But, despite all those posts, it was related to two girls from Chipley, Florida, that was the most shared post on Facebook in 2020. Almost 3.5 million Facebook users shared the post.
What made these two girls attract such worldwide attention? Why did this one about the Chipley girls stand out in the cluttered social media environment out of the millions and millions of Facebook posts?
Alert! Missing Chipley, Florida Girls
The post was published by Fox32 TV in Chicago on January 15, 2020. It was a link to an article regarding a missing child alert for Brylee and Braylen Pate, 7-year-old sisters who live on the Florida Panhandle. The post pleaded with readers to “circulate their photos on Facebook.”
The alert was issued after authorities suspected that the two girls might have been traveling with Vanessa Cotromano, 39, in a 2020 blue Nissan Altima with Florida tag GIDV22. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) canceled the alert two hours later when the two sisters were found safe.
The girls were unharmed, and Cotromano was taken into custody after the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) saw her vehicle on Interstate10 near the 128-mile marker in Jackson County.
Despite the alert being canceled, the article continued to circulate across Facebook for weeks after the incident. Not just in Florida but across the United States and even in other countries.
Why this post?
The 3.48 million people who shared the post only include users who clicked “share” on Fox 32’s Facebook page. This means the story would have had even more shares- from other pages that posted links to the same article. So, in reality, the figure would be far in excess of 3.5 million people.
It seems that people are keen to share news of missing children as they are eager to find them. Of the ten most shared link posts in the United States in 2020, two are articles seeking help to find missing children. Interestingly seven in the top ten are prayers or Bible verses.
It was a billboard rather than Facebook that helped find the girls
Ironically, given the amount of exposure the alert received on Facebook, an older advertising form was responsible for finding the two sisters.
An eagle-eyed motorist who was driving along Interstate 10 near Panama City saw an alert about missing 7-year-old twins Brylee and Braylen Pate on an electronic billboard. Then, in what was a fantastic stroke of luck, the driver saw the car on the billboard matching the car's description in front of him at the time!
Even though Facebook didn't directly assist the recovery of the missing Florida girls, it was great to see so many people across the United States share the information. Sometimes social media can be used for good purposes!