Singa to raise courtesy standards on social media

Kindness movement studying online interactions to see how it can help

SINGA the Lion is venturing into cyberspace as the Singapore Kindness Movement takes its campaign to the online arena.

The organisation plans to hire a full-time member of staff to conduct research on how people converse using social media.

And in another first, it is setting up a Kindness Day SG on May 31 – the last day of the school term. The aim is to involve children, who may not be able to take part in the existing World Kindness Day on Nov 13.

Dr William Wan, the general secretary of the movement, in an interview with The Straits Times, said he had two main concerns about people acting ungraciously on social media.

These are: “the innocent behaviour of netizens who carelessly post comments…without verifying the accuracy”; and “the minority, who are really angry and use the Internet to vent without listening to reason.”

Last month, the findings of the annual Graciousness Index study showed that Singaporeans are generally more willing to speak out on social media but are split on whether they should extend gracious behaviour to cyberspace.

Dr Wan said the new staff member will observe how people converse on the Internet. “We want to understand how we can effectively play a role in encouraging graciousness online,” he said.

But he added that the employee will not “spy” on sites and online conversations. Dr Wan said he hopes to see a “critical mass” of people who will promote kindness in cyberspace by posting comments about graciousness, for example.

The Media Literacy Council is also helping the movement – whose mascot is Singa the Lion – to promote graciousness in cyberspace.

It has called for proposals from students on ways to encourage young people to “have the courage to stand up for the right behaviour online”.

Those whose proposals are approved will receive up to $1,000 to start their projects through the movement’s Seed Kindness Fund.

Kindness Day SG – also slated to be an annual event – will involve students of different ages in primary and secondary schools.

By the end of this month, they will be given materials such as activity sheets to spur them to show kindness during the holidays.

“Schools will be involved actively, consciously, in an intentional manner to do acts of kindness,” said Dr Wan. “We would like kindness and graciousness, and all the values associated with them, to get to our kids first, while they are still young.”

During World Kindness Day in November, fewer students are involved – either due to exams or because their schools close early.

Dr Wan hopes more young people will be able to take part in the new event on the last day of Term Two, later this month, when the organisation will hold a celebration for the public at The Central in Clarke Quay at 7pm.

Promoting graciousness ground-up, not top-down

UNDER Dr William Wan’s leadership, the Singapore Kindness Movement has developed new ways of promoting graciousness.

The general secretary, 65, who joined the organisation in 2011, was reappointed for another year last month. Under his watch, it has become less “campaign-oriented” and more of a “facilitator” which supports ground-up initiatives, he told The Straits Times. “The days when the top-down approach worked are long past… Today, people want to be reasoned into doing or inspired to do things, not told to do so.”

He cited examples of how the movement – which started in 1997 – has linked students with mentors to work on projects.

“If we can find good examples of gracious acts and show why these make life better for people, then it’d be easier for them to want to be gracious.”

He said this was one of the reasons he stayed “optimistic” even though the latest Graciousness Index – based on a survey of over 1,000 people – hit a five-year low when the results came out last month.

Before joining the movement, Dr Wan was involved in charity work. About 10 years ago, he shaved his head to raise around $20,000 for a teenager with cancer. “I believe kindness will
be practised more often through the power of one, and that will cumulatively create social pressure and result in the culture of graciousness I dream about.”


Source: The Straits Times Home © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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