What the Tech: Misleading Facebook Posts

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook. We all should know that by now. But one particular post offering “the best tip I’ve heard in a loooong time” is not only bad advice but following it, may leave you stranded.

The post, which made its first appearance on Facebook last year claims if you’re ever lost while hiking or get stranded on the side of the road, and your phone is about to die, you should change your voicemail. It suggests recording where you are, what’s happening, and any additional information to help someone locate you. It says even if your phone dies, your voicemail still works and anyone calling your phone will hear the message and can locate you.

The post makes the rounds every few months when one friend shares it and gets lots of likes and comments. The truth is, that’s one of the worst things you can do.

First, changing your voicemail requires the phone to upload the message to the server. If you have a weak signal, that’s not going to work. Secondly, any voice call or recording is going to use the battery, so your phone will lose power more quickly. You likely won’t be able to give someone your precise location, especially if you’re moving around to find help.

The best advice if you need help, is to call 9-1-1 rather than try to record a new voicemail message.

You should also rely on text messages rather than phone calls. A text message uses less battery, and the signal doesn’t need to be very strong for it to go through. So text your friends your location. This also gives them the ability to look at that text message again and again and share it with anyone else looking for you.

It’s also good advice to set up emergency contacts in the phone’s settings. On an iPhone, you’ll find the option under Emergency SOS.

If you need immediate help without typing out a text or making a call, use the Emergency SOS options. On an iPhone press the on/off button five times. After 10 seconds it will call 9-1-1 without the need of pressing another button. It’ll also send text messages to all of those emergency contacts with your GPS location. If you move, they’ll get updates on your location.

This works even if you don’t have location services turned on.

On Android devices, it depends on which device you have. On most though, you can hold down the on/off button for a few seconds until another screen pops up with an option to choose “emergency”. By tapping a red button the phone will call the nearest 911 call center. You can also set up emergency contacts from this screen.

If you’re lost in the woods, use the app What3Words. This app will share your precise location, leading them right where you’re standing to anyone you share it with by text. Again, this uses very little battery and doesn’t require a great cell signal.

Friends mean well but this “Best tip I’ve ever heard in a looooong time” post should not be shared. And remember, the best advice you’ll ever get is seldom from a Facebook post.