Sleuthing power of social media help to recover holiday photos


We take it for granted – it’s at our fingertips, constantly on our minds, a part of our lives – but whenever the Internet decides to reveal another small piece of its magic, we are still amazed.

As Alex put it in a simple post on Facebook last week: “Thanks to all. The Internet did the trick.” And it does, indeed, have a few great tricks up its sleeve.

Alex Pitropakis’s first post was at 10.30 on a Sunday morning in June, when he uploaded what appeared to be a selfie of a woman and her son with the Acropolis in the background. The written message said: “I have found the camera of this mother and her son taken in Acropolis #Athens. I believe they are from #NYC based on the camera’s settings. Retweet, regram and repost please so I can find them and give them back their camera.” He repeated the post on Instagram and Twitter.

He could never have expected what came next. In less than two days, his Facebook post had 2,100 shares, it had been retweeted 1,000 times and it had traveled all over Instagram. Dozens of readers responded to Alex personally with suggestions of what other steps he could take – from posting with the Facebook group Lost And Found Cameras and Photos and, to getting in touch with the Acropolis police station and the US Embassy in Athens. Others offered clues. “I’m a tour guide,” one woman wrote to him. “I saw this woman with her son near the restrooms at the Acropolis. I remember her because of her necklace. I think she may be French.”

One of the comments on Instagram, though, caught his attention in particular: “Alex, there is no doubt this is my sister. I also sent you a message on Facebook with proof. She is actually in Greece but I don’t know for how long. I’m trying to find her so you can get in touch with her on Facebook. Thanks for posting!”

The mystery was solved and the owner of the camera was found. It turns out that she was from New York, just as Alex had surmised.

Most people underestimate the power of a single click, but this is just one of thousands of examples of how many clicks together helped a woman locate her camera and recover her memories from her holiday in Greece. Social media have proved an incredibly adept tool for finding lost belongings, and particularly cameras, which yield so many valuable clues in the owner’s photographs.

Recently, a woman in Nebraska found her lost camera when the young man who had found it in a movie theater parking lot posted her photographs on Facebook. “Did you see your photograph on Facebook?” one of the owner’s friends asked her. “Someone found your camera!”

A 22-year-old thought he had little hope of finding his lost shots when his camera went missing during a kayaking trip in New South Wales. The camera was found around 100 kilometers downstream on the riverbank by a man who posted his discovery on the Internet.

It took two weeks and over 8,000 posts of the young backpacker’s photographs – where he’s seen posing in front of various landmarks around the world – for the camera to get back to him in London, where he works as a lawyer.

“It’s very cool. It just goes to show the power of social media,” he wrote after he was reunited with his camera.