As of this writing, the photo 21-year-old Jenessa Simons posted on Facebook last weekend has been shared over 130,000 times. This is exactly what she'd hoped would happen, since that's what she asked people to do in the sign she holds in the image: "Please like & share." Unlike the increasingly popular/annoying One Million Likes challenge, however, Simons had an actual reason for trying to make her photo go viral: she was looking for her birth parents.
Simons was born at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo on November 17, 1991. Her parents were just 16 at the time, and she had both of their birth dates. "They named me Whitney," she wrote on the sign. Between that small amount of information Jenessa Simons had to share and the power of Facebook, something fantastic happened.
Her photo was posted on Sunday, and it started racking up likes and shares almost immediately -- just two days later, the image had been shared over 86,000 times. The story caught the attention of a woman who thought the details sounded familiar, and that woman passed the photo along to the person she believed was Simons' birth mother.
Soon, Simons had a message from the woman who gave birth to her:
She did send me a message on Facebook and said, "I think I’m your birth mother. I can’t believe it’s you. I’ve waited all this time."
Simons said she was initially skeptical it was really her mom because she'd received mountains of email from people who lied that they were her parents. But after talking to the woman, she knew she had found her. She knew things others didn't, like the fact that Simons was born by caesarean section, and she shared some photos of Simons as a baby that were given to her by the girl's adoptive mom.
Simons is now focused on getting to know her birth mother better, and is hoping to meet her soon. She is still searching for her birth father, but says that the experience has made her feel grateful for the power of social media:
... people took one second of their day to hit share and I found my family.
She's also hoping to turn her page into a resource for others to help find their own biological parents.
I'm pretty blown away by this story, in part because I actually saw the photo get shared in my own Facebook feed a couple days ago. It obviously wouldn't have had such a happy ending if Simons' birth mother didn't want to be found (and as a side note, I hope Simons adoptive parents are supportive of the effort), but it seems like everything worked out wonderfully.
And so quickly. Facebook has truly become a force of nature, hasn't it? Here's a young woman who, with the click of a button, reached more people more effectively than most traditional media could have. Amazing.
What do you think of this story? Do you think reaching out via Facebook is a good choice for people searching for their birth parents?
Image via Facebook