Internet Acts That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity

By Singyin Lee. Filed in Web 2.0

You have no idea how much power you have in that smartphone of yours. Or that tablet, PC, laptop or mobile device. In fact, anything that gives you a connection to the Internet gives you power. And what do we do with that kind of power? We look at videos of cats, binge-read Wikipedia posts and Google for the answers to all our college assignments.

Web Hero

But then, there are cases in some corner of the Internet where the online community did some good. The kind of good that you can be proud, or thankful for. We are going to take a look at these instances in this post.

In brief, lives were saved via Facebook, a group of kitchen employees who tampered with food were ousted by strangers, and the death of a hit-and-run victim was avenged. I’ll just let the stories do the talking.

1. You’re a life saver, Facebook friends!

Peter Casaru was a regular 59-year-old Facebooker who jokes in his statuses a lot. But friends took his status seriously when they saw his request for someone to call for an ambulance for him. He had woken up with a life-threatening spinal spasm that had paralyzed him from the waist down and had taken an hour to crawl (blind, as he had misplaced his glasses) to his computer to ask for help. His phone battery was dead and he lived alone. The authorities arrived within 20 minutes, and saved Peter’s life.

In a separate case, a 16-year old boy from Oxford sent a private message to a friend in Maryland about his plan to kill himself. The girl told her mother, who informed the British embassy in Washington DC. UK cops were alerted and in the middle of the night and with only the few bits of info they could get from the girl, authorities managed to narrow possible addresses down to 8 houses. Officers were dispatched to all homes, and they found the boy in a drug overdose but still alive, and got him to hospital in time to save his life.

2. Lettuce help keep the kitchen clean

We can never be sure of what happens behind the kitchen doors at food outlets but these days there are culprits who give us a behind-the-scenes look at the atrocities that were committed. "This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King" was one such example. A snap of two shoes adding ‘spices’ (see stepping in) to two trays of lettuce was released and circulated in 4chan (of all places) on July 16, 2012.

In less than 10 minutes, one 4chan user tracked down the location of the photo, based on its Exif data to Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The address of the branch was identified by another user in 12 minutes, and Fox 8 news caught whiff of the stinky issue in another 5 minutes. The next morning, the offending employees – there were three – were fired and Burger King released a statement to assure its patrons that they have found and terminated the workers involved. No news about what they did with the tampered lettuce though.

3. The human-powered take down

The Human Flesh Search (HFS) Engine is a phenomenon prevalent in China which operates on voluntary crowdsourcing and the pooling of localized information via blogs and forums to facilitate real-life offline investigations. It’s a form of citizen-powered sleuthing, to say the least.

A hit-and-run inside a Chinese university left one woman dead and another with a broken leg. The drunk driver sped off to drop his girlfriend at her dorm. When security guards arrested him, he dared them to sue him, saying "My dad is Li Gang!". When the news hit the Web, users were quick to identify Li Gang as the deputy director of a police department in the district, which would explain his son’s, Li Qiming’s brazen attitude.

Offline, efforts to suppress reports of the incident were swift, and interviews with the dead woman’s family members were kept off the news. Online, however, "My father is Li Gang" turned viral, evolving into a catchphrase used to evade responsibility for one’s actions. It was also the title to a poetry contest which received 6000 submissions. The Internet was not backing down.

Possibly due to public pressure, Li was sentenced to six years in jail from drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter. He was also ordered to pay compensation to the families of both victims. Justice came six months after the accident but without intervention from the Internet, there may not be justice at all.

4. Diagnosis of rare disease

It’s not uncommon to find doting parents sharing bits and pieces of their children’s lives; emergencies are no exceptions. And for these two mothers, it’s a good thing they did.

Cerys Owens had been worried about the seizures her son, Evan had been having since he was 3 weeks old. She posted a video of his seizures on Facebook, asking if anyone knows what condition her son has. A friend mentioned that it looked like Reflex Anoxic Seizures (RAS).

RAS could be triggered from pain or even from the simple act of brushing one’s teeth, leading to blackouts or the heart stopping. The diagnosis was confirmed when he was 13 months old (after it was identified via Facebook) and Cerys has been helping to spread awareness of the condition via clips of the seizures her son had.

For Deborah Copaken Kogan, her 4-year-old son came home from class with a fever, a rash and a note saying he probably has a case of strep. When tests came back negative, Leo was sent home. In the next two days, her son’s face would swell beyond recognition and after Deborah updated her Facebook with the latest snap of his swelling, a former neighbor called her and told her to get him to hospital immediately.

She suspects Kawasaki disease, a fatal auto-immune disorder which attacks arteries near the heart, which her own son had. Doctors confirmed the diagnosis and Leo was treated for the rare disease and for complications from it for the next three weeks.

5. Lily and the Giraffe bread

Ok, this one is a bit of a cheat. Even without social media, this exchange between a rep from Sainsbury and 3½ year old Lily Robinson would have happened anyways. But it deserves a spot because we want more heart-warming stories like this to keep coming, don’t we?

Lily wrote a very thoughtful and short, no-nonsense letter to Sainsbury asking them why their bread with giraffe spots was named tiger bread. We have to agree with her suggestion to rename it Giraffe bread (see below), and apparently so did the customer service at Sainsbury.



(Image Source: Cerys Owens)

Here are both their letters, plus a gift card from 27 1/3 (isn’t that cute?) year old Customer Manager, Chris King. That post got over 150,000 facebook likes and Sainsbury made good on their promise to rename the bread. Chris has since left for university to become a teacher and if you want to show your appreciation for what he had done, they’ve got a Facebook fan page for that.

Conclusion

It was not easy to track down these five cases although we’re sure that there are more heart-warming cases, or stories of netizens doing their good for society. And this is why we want you to share your stories with us. Tell us about that story that you have read about and could never forget. The comments space is yours.



Author:

Singyin is Hongkiat.com's staff editor: writer first, tech fan second. She's in a love-hate relationship with Tech. Until she has time to get on Twitter, you can find her on Facebook.