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31 July 2011

Twitter to the rescue

Erna Van Wyk

Johannesburg - South Africa’s Twitter community mobilised a 2 000-strong following on Friday night to search and rescue a distraught mother of two boys who was threatening to ­commit suicide.

In her harrowing first tweet at about 22:00, @innov8ive asks how much one needs to drink to get enough courage to cut an artery.

As the minutes ticked by, her tweets became more desperate, sketching a picture of rejected love, deep loss and loneliness.

She tweeted: “If u hate the mother of your kids, hurt her, leave her, break her down and take them from her and then isolate her. Take all she loves away.”

Concerned twitterati immediately started sending supportive messages to her:

ThandyM: “@innov8ive girl I’m sure it looks like there is no other way pls don’t do what u planning on doing u have kids to think about.”

angelaclarkZA: “@innov8ive special ****, I have been in your space, been there, know you are worth life + the best mom for your boys, now live + prove it!”

Morena_K: “@innov8ive hey whatever you going thru, it is not worth what you might be contemplating. It might seem bad now but you will see it through.”

Rescue a person

Pleas followed, with people ­appealing on Twitter for anyone who knew @innov8ive to track her down.

Harry Dennen, a copywriter from Durban, yesterday told City Press how amazing it was to be part of a team of complete strangers with one goal in mind: to rescue a person.

He was waiting for a friend when he picked up on the Twitter stream asking for assistance in searching for @innov8ive.

“I asked the others on Twitter if everything was okay, because I’ve seen this kind of thing with a friend of mine before.”

Dennen was informed that @innov8ive, according to her ­geoposition, was somewhere in Kingsburgh, near Amanzimtoti.

His roommate, Rob van der Westhuizen, knows the area well and the two of them set off in his car to search for her.

“While Rob was driving, I called Netcare 911 who responded really well. The first address was wrong. Unfortunately we woke up a very old lady.

“I again asked on Twitter for any other addresses and was given another point across the river.”

Dennen and Van der Westhuizen rushed to a park there and expected the worst. Meanwhile, another Twitter “rescuer”, @SynStalker, started co-ordinating search teams.

“We then got word that someone had been able to get into contact with @innov8ive’s family and her father was informed. I later phoned him and he said she was okay and they were with her,” ­Dennen said.

Dennen said when someone was contemplating suicide, you have to “do everything immediately because at that point it counts”.

He spoke of the positive influence of Twitter.

“Because you can follow anyone on Twitter, it allows for a community to exist immediately, something that did not ­happen five years ago. It’s really ­interesting to see you can form an ad hoc search and rescue team in two minutes.

“Things can happen anywhere, but now we have more access to ­people who can help,” Dennen said.

- City Press/News24