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Touching stories in wake of Manchester attack

Also, HDB's spin on 'touching memes' to plug its recent release of flats leaves some bemused

FIGHTING TERROR ON SOCIAL MEDIA

The Manchester terror attack was a tragedy that reverberated around the world.

And social media has once again proven that it plays a key role in highlighting how people stand united in the face of such threats.

Photographs and videos depicting acceptance and tolerance in a climate of fear went viral.

On May 24, political correspondent Daniel Hewitt uploaded to Twitter a 45-second clip of two longtime friends comforting each other at a Manchester memorial.

The caption reads: "Renee Black, 93, and Sadiq Patel, praying together in Albert Square. She is Jewish, he is Muslim."

It has been retweeted and liked close to 40,000 times.

The pair had made their way to the vigil from Blackburn, where they are members of the Blackburn Interfaith Forum.

In a short interview with the local media, Madam Black said that the duo had come to pay respects to the people who were killed.

"(We) hope to that they never have anything like this again," she added. "We are all the same people. We bleed just like everybody else."


Two longtime friends - Mr Sadiq Patel, a Muslim, and Madam Renee Rachel Black, a Jew - walking by floral tributes in St Ann's Square in Manchester. The pair prayed together in Albert Square. They had made their way from Blackburn, where they are members of the Blackburn Interfaith Forum. PHOTO: REUTERS

In turn, Mr Patel, an imam, said: "No words can actually express what we are going through. But one thing we do definitely know is that we are in this together and we will get through this together."

He added: "At this moment in time, faith doesn't mean anything."

Subsequent photos showed the two leaning on each other, arms interlocked for support.

Another trending video, uploaded by BBC News, showed a powerful interview with an emotional Manchester resident who was identified only as Ian. In the 1 min 30 sec clip, Ian said: "We can react in a lot of ways. We can react in anger or we can react by doing."

He added: "This city is for everybody and we all need to rally around to show support because they want to divide us. They want us to turn on our neighbours and it will never happen."


The HDB uploaded this image on to its Facebook page. One user said the HDB does not get the meme, while another said it is not bad. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/HDB

This was clearly demonstrated the day after, when Mancunians of all creeds and ethnicities packed the blood donor centres.

Several trending hashtags also stood out.

Residents and businesses used #RoomForManchester to open up their homes and premises for those who escaped the blast.

A typical tweet read: "I live five minutes from the Manchester Arena. I have a sofa bed, food, drinks and phone chargers if anyone needs any help."

Pleas for help on Twitter by concerned family members whose children or loved ones were missing were answered by strangers who promised to do their utmost to search for them.

These reactions online echo previous instances in which social media users banded together to stand against terrorism and discrimination. #WeAreNotAfraid was used in the aftermath of the Westminster attack in London in March earlier this year, while #IllRideWithYou, in which Sydney residents offered to accompany Muslims in religious attire who feared reprisal following an attack at a popular cafe.

#BrusselsLockdown was used in the city after local police asked citizens not to post details on Twitter that might compromise operational sensitivities.

TOUCH THE KEY?

In an attempt to connect with millennials and a younger audience, the Housing Board took to social media to post a trending meme about its recent release of flats.

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • MELANIA TRUMP: The United States First Lady swatting her husband Donald Trump's hand away on the tarmac in Israel was the top trending YouTube video last week, gathering close to 12 million views since it was uploaded on May 22.


    SEA LION: A two-minute clip of a sea lion dragging a young girl into the water at Steveston Fisherman's Wharf in Canada went viral. The girl was rescued by family members and there were no injuries reported.


    #PRAYFORMARAWI: The hashtag started trending after armed terrorist group Maute laid siege to the city in the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte has since declared martial law.

Last Saturday, the HDB uploaded an image of a key on to its Facebook page with the instructions "Touch the key".

This is similar to an ongoing trend where people post photos of items or animals like ants calling for users to "touch them". Scrolling down such images invariably leads to a snide reply, somewhere along the lines of "Gently you moron! You've killed the ant".

The somewhat tenuous joke here is it pokes fun at some less-than-savvy Internet users who would actually touch their monitor screens without comprehending that their actions are futile.

Of course, the HDB, being the only supplier for much of the housing in Singapore, could not very well include a message saying, "Gently you home-seeker! You've destroyed your only key to your brand-new flat!"

Instead, it opted for a far safer message. Scrolling down on HDB's image, one would read: "It could be the key to your first home."

This did not sit well for many users who clicked the page.

User Jasper Lim said: "The government agencies should be barred from touching memes, I swear. It's like every time your parents try to say a trendy (word), it makes the word (cringeworthy)."

"(HDB) doesn't even understand the meme," said another user.

Others opted for a sarcastic approach."I keep pressing the key until my monitor is chalky with my thumbprints but nothing happens. Why?" asked user Raj Kiran. "HDB assist me please."

But there were also some supporters for the agency's efforts.

"It's actually not bad. Don't be so harsh on them, at least they tried," said user Conan Chui.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'Touching stories in wake of Manchester attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe