A Facebook Story — The social media posts that located missing Stanford student

Friday morning, the parents of a 22-year-old Stanford student reported him missing in Malaysia. His friends created a social media campaign to find him. Read the story through the actual tweets and Facebook posts.
Jacob Boehm, a senior at Stanford University, was reported missing Friday while traveling alone in Malaysia. (Photo courtesy of Boehm family)

Stanford senior Jacob Boehm, 22, was always well connected to the world through social media. On his summer trip to Japan with the Stanford Chamber Chorale, and then throughout his solo travels through the Asian Pacific, Boehm always kept his friends and family up to date using Google Plus and the photo-sharing program Picasa.

On Aug. 10, Boehm’s Google Plus account announced he was in Malaysia. He was traveling on both his U.S. and German passports. But then his communication – online and off – stopped.

His family heard nothing for a week. Panicked, his parents, Bruce and Nancy, filed a missing person report with the U.S. and German consulates Friday morning. They also sent emails to 12 of Boehm’s friends asking for any help they could provide.

The friends also turned to social media, and what played out in the next 24-hours is an example of the power these tools can harness. More than 18,000 people around the world had at least one of the two related Facebook pages appear in their Facebook news feeds, and thousands actively posted or tweeted, offering help and support.

There was the Lonely Planet guidebook writer who offered insight about the region, the Stanford dean of students who helped mobilize the university’s student and alumni communities, the friends-of-friends who notified officers in the U.S. Navy and people in local Malaysian churches, and ultimately, the Malaysian-born Stanford students who had high-ranking contacts in the region.

The 24-hour tale is, perhaps, best told directly through some of the social media posts themselves. They were obtained from the public Facebook pages and Twitter feeds created during the search,  and they are republished here with permission from the Boehm family and friends who created the Facebook pages.


Editor’s Note: Boehm was located exploring Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park, where he spent several days. He did not have access to internet or phone service while there, which accounted for his lack of communication. According to his parents, he returned safely to their North Carolina home Wednesday after more than 40 hours in transit.

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  1. says: winnie

    I still don’t get it, was he lost in the forest or what? He just didn’t have coverage to contact his family? did h e finally contact them or just someone sighted him? So vague . . .

  2. says: Jan Chainey

    As a grandmother of 7 curious and extrabright “kids” several college grads now, I wept when I read the wonderful responses to help finding this young man. We of my generation (I’m 75) who have traveled and who have backpacked, explored caves, rafted in New Zealand, boated in Alaska , and more…. and live in a redwood forest in the mountains, marvel at how these very same intelligent, curious souls, survive when they do last minute decisions without communicating to someone, anyone, where they are going. Never hike alone anywhere. At least take your dog along. Too many of our bright young people do just “disappear”. Glad he was one of the lucky ones. JANCH.

  3. says: John Q

    Hmmm… this seems to be more of a story about the over-communication that we’re used to these days and that without it we assume something’s wrong. I think about a trip I took to Europe for a summer (before facebook, before twitter, before email, before cell phones) where I would be out of touch with family for weeks. No one panicked. Parents tempered their concerns with the knowledge that they had confidence in their children. The “mission accomplished” tone here strikes me as odd… seems more like it should be “uh, sorry everyone.”

    … and, yes, I have children. 🙂

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