Thursday, 2 September 2010

Singapore’s social media comes of age

Virtually everyone is wired in Singapore. Or wireless as the case may be. The trains are full of people watching television shows on portable wi-fi instruments, while cafes are monopolized by customers surfing on their laptops.
However, the true sign that social media in the region has come of age is not determined by the numbers. Rather, its importance has been indicated by the spate of recent news articles surrounding the New Media.
A reservist policeman was questioned by the police about a blog post. Singaporeans also became aware that some food bloggers consider themselves worthy of free meals and tantrums, both at the same time. Another blogger was arrested for inciting violence through a post calling for 'direct action' against a Member of Parliament.
Meanwhile, at least one marriage in the city-state fell apart as a result of evidence gathered online. A Singaporean man juggling two wives, from Malaysia and a Hong Kong, left no doubt of his two lives when one wife came across pictures of his second wife on his Facebook account.
Clearly, the impact of the New Media has sometimes been underestimated by individual Singaporean users.
Careless choice of words and unproven allegations can land people in serious trouble. It is one thing to be accused of being a non-Muslim in the court of public opinion, it's quite another to be arrested for a crime by the authorities.
Most likely, the majority of netizens are incensed by the recent actions by the authorities as an infringement of personal freedoms. Whether that is true or not, users of social media will certainly be more careful about what they write in the future.
Such an outcome is no bad thing, a sign of maturity.
A more pragmatic approach, with less emotional ranting, can only be good for social debate. Constant raving against the 'Powers that Be' without any meaningful addition to the debate may attract a large volume of daily hits but is it anything more than a cathartic waste of time?
Maybe if the Grand Moofti spoke about subjects of more interest to Singaporeans his readership would increase too – most Singaporeans are least interested in Pakistan, Islam or Singapore's own version of Sharia.
Now, if I were to write about money, the stock market or Temasek maybe my future as a blogger would be brighter!

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