Tweets and Likes can do good in a selfish world

Surely, holding a door open for a member of either sex is just good manners?

LESLEY KEATING: Would you dare hold a door open for a woman?

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In these troubled and cynical times when so many people seem to exist simply for what they can grab for themselves, it is a story which warms the heart.

It is a tale in which physical and virtual communities combined to prove that there really is some good in the world after all.

It started on Tuesday afternoon when 25-year-old Alex Batchelor was reported missing. He had missed his lift home to Stubbington from Highbury College, Cosham.

It ended in the early hours of yesterday when Alex, who has Down Syndrome, was spotted 72 miles away in Eastbourne at a bus stop.

It ended happily thanks, largely, to the online community on Facebook and Twitter.

Not too many years ago, Alex might not have been found for days. But within hours of his disappearance his description and a photograph had been posted online and 2,000 people had joined a Facebook group to help find him.

And it worked. Two women saw him at that Eastbourne bus stop at 3am, recognised him from Facebook and called the police.

Back in the Portsmouth area teams of people, few of whom had any connection to Alex or his family, were scouring south-east Hampshire and West Sussex for him.

Alex’s parents Jeff and Michelle had been desperately driving around the area searching for their son unaware so many others were also looking him.

Jeff says: ‘It appears because of Facebook somebody over in Eastbourne put it on their profile and happened to go out and see him. We are trying to find out who the two young ladies are. There are some wonderful people.’

Social media, like some real communities, often get a bad press, but here is a classic example of the good they can do.

And while we’re praising the public for their community spirit, Sussex Police should also be given a pat on the back. Instead of making Alex’s parents drive all the way to Eastbourne to pick up their son, they took him halfway home for a Worthing reunion.

This really was an example of the big society pulling together.