What looked like a very hopeful story with thousands of volunteers engaged through social media to help find a missing teen turned to tragedy over the weekend. Cayman Naib, a 13-year old student at the Shipley School, left his home angrily during last Wednesday’s snow storm after receving a negative progress report from his school. In just a short time and largely through one highly visited site, Find Cayman, on Facebook, friends, volunteers and total strangers quickly joined in the search for him. From the launch of the Facebook site on March 5, the site virally attracted over 22,000 followers. Simiarly, Twitter and Instagram lit up with the hashtag #FindCayman. Unfortunately, the search ended yesterday when the young teen was found dead near his home.
Originally, I had hoped that this story would have a positive ending and that I would be able to write about how a community rallied around a family and a young man largely through social media. Yet, despite the very sad outcome, I still believe that this story does demonstrate the positive community-building engagement that social media offers. Social media is now the first place where people look when they want to get involved and this story shows that better than anything that I have seen in recent memory. Volunteers flocked to community locations to help in the search. Others offered support for Cayman’s family and sibling. In its post after his body was discovered, his parents expressed their gratitude and how much this meant to them when they said:
We can’t begin to tell you how this support and concern and prayers have buoyed the Naibs during this incredibly difficult time. We would ask at this point that the family be given the privacy and quiet that they need to grieve, heal, and to support their daughter.
Now the Facebook page has turned into a tribute page by being renamed, Celebrating Cayman. With all the negative attention that social media often gets, this story while not having a happy ending does demonstrate how it can be a powerful force for good.