Happy 52nd birthday Singapore!
While our country prepares to celebrate its independence with a rousing National Day Parade in the next couple of days or so, I reflected upon how Singapore projects herself online, and what we Singaporeans can do to build a better “digital nation”.
As a digital and content marketing consultant and trainer, I spend a lot of time online perusing my social media feeds, reading blog articles, watching YouTube videos, and listening to podcasts. Much of it is spent peering and tapping on the tiny screen of my iPhone.
However, I am certainly not alone. Especially here in Singapore.
Singapore – a Smartphone Loving Digital Nation
If you happen to find yourself here in Singapore, do take a look around you. You’ll notice that almost everybody here on our tiny tropical island are perpetually tethered to their mobile phones.
We have the distinction of having one of the world’s highest rate of smartphone penetration. According to statistics from IMDA, there are 1.5 mobile phone subscriptions for every Singaporean here!
Beyond being one of the world’s most smartphone savvy nations, we Singaporeans also spend a lot of time online. Over 82% of Singaporeans are active on the Internet, with another 77% of us actively engaged in using social media as shown below.
Courtesy of We Are Social
With such a high smartphone, Internet and social media penetration rate, my next question is this:
How much time do Singaporeans spend online?
The answer according to a Straits Times report on an Ernst and Young study can be quite shocking. According to the survey…
“Singaporeans spend an average of 12 hour 42 mins a day on digital devices.”
What this means is that we spend more of our waking hours online rather than offline. We love our smartphones so much that it isn’t uncommon to find entire 3-generation families – grandparents, parents and kids – all simultaneously perusing their digital devices.
So How Can You Build a Better Singapore Online?
Yes, I’m talking to you my fellow Singaporean.
Well, there are many different ways for us to spend our time on our digital devices.
Some of them are productive. Many, unfortunately, are not.
As a parent, I’m mindful of setting a positive example for my 13.5 year old son to follow (read the “BCDs of parenting” to learn more).
As a member of the Media Literacy Council and a digital marketer, I further advocate positive online behaviours. They include embracing ethical marketing practices, being mindful of cultural sensitivities, and learning how to apologise online whenever things go awry.
So how can all of us be more positive citizens online (and offline)?
#1 Ignore Trolls and Haters
No you don’t have to get the last word in whenever you encounter trolls or haters on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
Doing so not only gets you upset—it wastes a lot of unnecessary time and cognitive plus emotional energy.
From my experience, I find that engaging in online tit-for-tat battles with trolls is hardly the best way to “win friends and influence people.”
On the contrary, doing so will only stoke his or her fire further, and result in a never ending ping-pong battle of wits.
Lets not forget that trolls love to pick up a Facebook fight. The last thing you want to do is to descend to their level and become a troll yourself.
#2 Seek First To Understand
What about folks who hold on to a different set of beliefs and values? Should you ignore them just like you do with trolls?
As somebody who have friends across the entire liberal-conservative spectrum, I try to understand and appreciate why a person behaves or feels a certain way. Which means opening myself up to a wide variety of opinions, and seeing how a person sees before passing judgment.
This brings me to my favourite “E” word: empathy
Demonstrating empathy online means being slow to anger and quick to forgive. It also means that we should not pick up fights unnecessarily.
#3 Spend More Time Creating (And Less Consuming)
If you spend two leisure hours a day online, you can watch a few episodes of your favourite Korean drama, play a few rounds of your favourite online game, or scroll through your Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn feeds ad nauseum.
Or you can choose to write a book, curate and share useful articles, publish a helpful blog post, or record a video offering a helpful insight.
Focus on creating something that can educate others or enrich their lives. Be an online mentor, coach or friend.
As I’ve previously written, nobody is really going to criticise what you write unless you’re so notoriously bad that you’re good. (And it isn’t easy to be that bad too.)
#4 Start a Positive Movement
As you sing the national anthem and say the national pledge, consider how you can start a positive online movement. This can be in the form of a social enterprise, non-profit society, or just a Facebook Group advocating positive acts.
There are lots of exemplary examples out there. They include The Hidden Good, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, Zero Waste Singapore, StandUpFor.SG, Give.Asia, SgVillage and many others like them.
Borrowing and adapting from the words of former US President John F Kennedy:
“Ask not what Singapore can do for you. Ask what you can do for Singapore.”
#5 Catch Others Doing Good—Avoid the Blame Game
It is easy to point fingers at others when they do wrong. It is harder to laud others and give them the limelight when they do right.
While there are occasions where a strategically shot smartphone video or photo could help the authorities to nab criminals, we need to be mindful how we deploy this “weapon of mass (personal reputation) destruction”.
If you really need to share something on Facebook, why not make it a positive thing? This can be anything from a photo of somebody doing good, an anecdote of how you’ve experienced kindness from a stranger, or a live video of people helping others out.
Now that I’ve shared some ways for us to be better Singaporeans online, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Are there other ways for us to do our country proud not just on National Day but every day?
Oh and Happy National Day!