The Daily Telegraph
Hashtags and the kindness of strangers go hand in hand
As I write this, details are trickling out about those caught up in the terror attack on Westminster. A terrible thing has happened to all of us. This act of murder, of violence, of wickedness strikes at the heart of what it is to be British, to be civilised, to be human. Precious lives were lost, catastrophic injuries sustained when an evil man, fuelled by hatred, set out to kill and maim and, by so doing, destroy those things we hold most dear. And those who were there responded with courage and selflessness and honour.
The response on social media has been predictable – a blizzard of hashtag slogans and quotations. Some commentators – some friends of mine – have rolled their eyes and expressed their contempt at the flurries of #WeAreNotAfraid and #PrayForLondon and #StandWithLondon criss-crossing the planet.
Yet one man’s platitude is another boy’s statement of intent, a teenage girl’s expression of solidarity towards those she has never met. It’s no more trite than buying a card bearing “Deepest Sympathy” because you don’t know what else to say. It’s always easy to sneer, to roll one’s eyes at the young and the less articulate who peddle their feel-good bromides and “change nothing”. But would silence help? Would it be better for the grieving not to know that thoughts and prayers are with them in their darkest hour? Those who claim hashtags make no difference have clearly never had to rely on the kindness of strangers. When the social media generation inherits the earth, their unique connectedness might just change everything.