When a Delhi-based chartered accountant Jitendra Chawla's father, Subhash Chandar Chawla, 65, went missing on October 30, the son posted his father's photograph on his Facebook wall and asked people to get in touch with him if they spotted him. Chawla senior had been suffering from depression after the death of one of his sons last year.
Within hours, the message was shared by thousands who joined the search for his father.
Though his father returned home on his own late on Saturday evening, Chawla has been overwhelmed by the response. He got at least 150 calls each day, of which 15 people claimed they had seen his father. "As I had anticipated, the response was tremendous. So many people were looking for him on the streets with me," said Chawla.
Some called to say they'd seen his father near the Delhi Cantonment railway station. Chawla went to check and found his father had been there.
A woman called up from west Delhi's Janakpuri area to say she was standing next to a man who looked like his father. When Chawla went to check, it turned out to be someone else. "It's a great feeling to know that people care about strangers and if required, I'll do my best to help too," he added.
Even the police have started using the site to catch criminals. In a recent attack on senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Delhi Police tracked the Facebook profile of Tejender Pal Singh Bagga, one of the three arrested for the assault. According to the police, there were regular updates on his profile. The profile led to the arrest of 10 members of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, who were involved in the scuffle.
"Checking a person's Facebook profile says a lot about the person. Often, his friend list and wall posts give away crucial clues," said a senior official from the Delhi Police.