When Carolina Macias didn’t come home from work, her mother panicked.
According to CBS Miami, she received a phone call from Carolina’s boss saying that Carolina was gone and had left her cell phone as well as her other belongings.
She called 9-1-1 to report it, but after four hours of silence, not long enough for police to officially declare Macias a missing person, her mother reached for her cell phone and texted her family and friends, asking for help finding her daughter.
Caro’s older sister, Andrea Macias who lives in Texas, created an Instagram collage of the mother’s text, a picture of Carolina, and a message to readers with the hash tag #prayforcaro attached to it. This photo trended world wide on Twitter and Instagram, reaching over nine thousand reposts within 12 hours. Total strangers created Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to finding the teen.
“Although I didn’t know her, I thought it would do justice if I at least tried helping out,” said Elizabeth Vargas, who created the Facebook Page, “Help Find Caro Macias.”
According to Instagram users talking about the case, people in Ohio even went as far as putting a billboard up for the missing teen. Senator Marco Rubio also tweeted the photo.
The following day, rumors spread that she was found but the family denied them and continued asking for help in finding her. By noon, she was officially found.
According to The Miami Herald, “Surveillance video later showed Macias entering a Publix supermarket with a friend…and renting a movie from a RedBox.”
When people found out that she was just “hanging out with a friend” some were relieved and understanding of the situation.
“There’s no way to prove she’s a runaway until she is safely secured,” said Jonathan Salazar, a Search and Rescue/First Responder who has worked in numerous missing persons cases. “No matter what the circumstances are, she had the potential to be in danger.”
Others were upset and felt cheated.
“I was one of the thousands of people who retweeted her picture in order to help find her and I ended up finding out that she just ran away. Now, I can’t trust families who say their child is missing anymore and I feel really bad about it. She turned this serious matter into a joke,” said Alexander Del Valle, a student from FIU.
On July 4th @Childhoodruniner, a popular Twitter account with over 359,800 followers, tweeted two photos of a twelve-year-old missing girl, Talaija Dorsey, from Los Angeles, California. This photo received 3,628 out of the 300,000+ followers they have. Instead of posting up billboards or having their senator tweet the photo, a local news station reported the missing child and that’s all that was heard from the case.
According to The Advocate, a local newspaper in L.A., “Talaija Dorsey disappeared on July 1st and her body was found in a grassy area near a cane filed in St. James Parish, Sunday, July 6.”
Unfortunately, she did not have the same fate as Caro Macias. A lot of people on Twitter claim that it’s because of her race or her social class.
“I think her social status definitely played an impact,” said Jonathan Salazar.
On Caro Macias Twitter profile, you can search through her photos and tweets and see how people have commented on where she lives, the brand name and designer clothes and shoes she wears. One example is a photo of her posing with her leg and foot bent upward revealing her Louboutin high heels.
Maybe her family had the resources to get the help they got. Or maybe her popularity at school or on Twitter got her the attention.
“Families employ social media and that’s not a bad thing,” said David Ovalle, a Crime Reporter for The Miami Herald.
Regardless, “the media has a duty to be responsible no matter who the person is,” said David Ovalle, when asked if her race or social class/status had anything to do with the amount of attention she got when she was missing.
This issue also brings up the use of social media in all missing persons cases. AMBER Alert is the main contributor in broadcasting missing persons through Android and iPhone users who receive an alert nation wide when someone is missing. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are usually the first method people use to spread the news on a missing person.
“Social media spread word on this situation VERY rapidly. It went nation wide in the first 12 hours. The power of social media, which let’s us transmit information faster than a blink of our eyes was a tremendous resource to this case,” said Salazar.
“It’s human psychology,” added Salazar. “The same instincts that lead us to give our change to those on the street by us. People believe they can make a difference. In this case, it definitely proved it.”