Manchester Attack: Social Media Shines Brighter On Helpers Than Fakers

Sadly, there is again only one topic of conversation today -- only one story in the media. Just as with the terror attack outside the House of Parliament two months ago, the Manchester Arena dominates all. No regular television on BBC and the main commercial channel, ITV. Instead, rolling news moves us all through the day as the tragic events of last night are laid bare through the faces of the missing and the gradual confirmation of the identities of the 22 killed and 59 wounded.

No media channel is proving more influential here than social. Not only are people expressing solidarity with the city, but on the average timeline, such as mine, relatives from Manchester are checking in with one another to make sure everyone is OK, and checking if anyone they know was in harm's way. Most notable are the many shares of pictures of the missing.

As one would have imagined for an Ariana Grande audience, the pictures are made all the more heartbreaking for the apparent ages of the people whom parents are desperate to locate. The crowd was mainly made up of teens and pre-teens and parents who had no doubt secured tickets to give their children a chance to see their hero on stage. You can't imagine a single event where there would be a greater concentration of children and teenagers in one place.

With a capacity of 22,000, there is no bigger indoor venue in the UK, and no act could command a large audience of teenagers, pre-teens and small children. The suicide bomber clearly had one intent. To kill as many children leaving a concert as possible. There is no doubt about this. Take That and their core demographic of mums on a fun girls' night out are due to appear for a couple of nights at the end of the week. The bomber must have perused the "what's on" list before deciding the age of the crowd at an Ariana Grande gig would cause the most revulsion. A ticket to the gig was the ultimate Christmas present that those at the concert would have had top of their list for Santa.

For those at home with access to a television, the rolling news will dominate the day, but for the majority who are working or studying today, news sites and apps will be more accessible, and social media will be the place where the faces of the missing will be leaping out of the screen.

As ever with social, we have a mirror revealing how we are. Heartfelt messages of solidarity and support rub shoulders with those from people keen to associate themselves with events for a little attention. Crazily, there have even been many people sharing random pictures, encouraging people to get in touch. The depths some people will go to in order to gain attention clearly know no bounds. 

In London we had reports of people who reached for their mobile phone to record footage for Facebook Live rather than to dial the emergency services. In Manchester we have reports of people seeking consolation for missing children they have fabricated

In all this, however, we have amazing stories of community spirit. Scores of posts offered a free bed for the night so concert attendees who couldn't get to hotels past a police cordon had a place to stay. Cab drivers were offering free rides to get people home safely. The one picture that will remain with me, however, which has been shared widely and broadcast on television, are the bonnets of police cars and ambulances. Take a closer look and you can just make out that the shapes in front of the windscreen are not police equipment. They are flasks of tea and coffee, bottles of water and homemade sandwiches that residents brought out to make sure the emergency services were looked after. 

Later this morning came another confirmation of the human spirit. The National Health Service, whose off-duty staff rushed in to work to provide emergency aid, tweeted to thank residents with a message they had enough stocks now of the most common blood types. For everyone pretending to have lost someone in the disaster, there were countless more who rushed to work in their nurse's uniform, lit up their taxi light for free rides home, booked an appointment to give blood and emptied their cupboards and opened their spare rooms. 

As we learn more about the bomber, apparently British, and the person arrested in connection with the terrorist outrage, that is where the story will go, and the temptation will be to blame one part of the community. So those acts of kindness have to be remembered.

As for the next concert at the Manchester Arena, Take That on Thursday, my guess it will happen. The group has cancelled a concert tonight in nearby Liverpool but my bet is Manchester will happen as scheduled. It's exactly what happened when Manchester's main shopping centre was bombed in 1996. The next day an international football game, a Euro 2016 fixture, took place as scheduled -- Germany beat Russia 3-0. The community spirit that rushed to peoples' aid last night and the small hours will demand that the city's most famous band will take to the stage to show the people of hate that the city will not be bowed, its world-famous reputation as an entertainment hub will not be diminished.

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