“They are safe:” Social media proves invaluable in wake of Orlando mass shooting

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MILWAUKEE -- One of the most difficult realities in the hours following Sunday's mass shooting in Orlando has been the wait for family members until they find out if a loved one is OK. But for thousands of people, good news came in the form of notifications from Facebook.

On Sunday, June 12th, Milwaukee resident Creighton Schwark was spending the morning monitoring his phone for good news.

"I've been getting a lot of Facebook messages. These people are safe that are your friends on Facebook. They are safe in the Orlando shooting," Schwark said.

Safety message on Facebook

Safety message on Facebook

Anne Kunze was getting those notifications as well.

"We've reached out to all of them to make sure they are OKĀ -- and it's a really big shock," Kunze said.

It was the same situation for thousands of people in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Safety message on Facebook

Safety message on Facebook

Christopher Wargaski is a computer securities expert for a firm in Brookfield. Wargaski says social media applications like Facebook are able to identify user activity and relay location information.

"I can turn on or turn off the ability to let my friends know my location. By default, I saw that it was turned on by my Facebook App," said Wargaski.

Wargaski said there is another way apps pinpoint locations -- by using your phone's GPS signal. It is the same way you get traffic updates on Google Maps.

Safety message on Facebook

Safety message on Facebook

"Facebook is kind of crazy like that, but it's kind of cool if you ask me," Wargaski said.

Of course, there is a flip side to having personal information, like your location, accessible by the public. But in the case of the Orlando mass shooting, it has offered an intangible amount of relief to people who were fearing the worst.

The scene in Orlando, Florida after a shooting at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016.

The scene in Orlando, Florida after a shooting at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016.