A kinder, gentler social media?

A kinder, gentler social media?
One kind act publicised online this year was that of Edgefield Secondary School student Vince Thant (far right), seen here with his friend and schoolmate Leong Jun Hao. Vince gave up his shoes to a barefooted boy.
PHOTO: TNP

The past fortnight saw at least three acts of kindness in Singapore documented and shared widely on social media - in what some say is a refreshing departure from the negativity often found on the Internet.

A Facebook video showing some 30 passers-by teaming up to lift a trailer to free a trapped man, and an online account of a pregnant woman who gave birth in a car with the help of two good Samaritans were two such examples.

The video of the trailer rescue, filmed and posted by an eyewitness on Wednesday, was shared over 5,900 times as of yesterday. The other incident took place on the same day; it was featured in a Straits Times article that was shared about 26,000 times by readers.

The publicising of these good acts follows cases earlier in the year when good deeds, such as that of an Edgefield Secondary School student who gave up his shoes to a barefooted boy, were shared online.

Some people who carry out charitable deeds are also choosing to publicise these online - not for fame but to influence others to do good.

For instance, four 13-year-old students from Marsiling Secondary School bought a homeless man new T-shirts and gave him money for food.

They filmed what they did and a friend shared it on Facebook two weeks ago. The clip was shared over 2,800 times on Facebook, with some netizens saying they also wanted to do good.

On their kind act, one of the Marsiling Secondary students, Shafiq Iswandy Abdullah, told The Sunday Times: "It's good that it motivates others to do the same thing."

Observers say these cases suggest a possible trend of highlighting positive acts on social media.

Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said Singaporeans appear to be on the lookout for acts of generosity, with the wish to spread the word about them.

While noting that no study has been done to ascertain whether this is indeed a trend, he said nevertheless: "Social media is generally becoming a wonderful platform to share news - much of it good news... It creates a kind of sub-culture in which sharing positive things is cool."

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said the social media landscape could be becoming more mature, and people are moving beyond vigilantism and just putting up videos of wrongdoings.

"There are many good acts in society that may not get into mainstream media, so it is good that people are taking the initiative to share them... It would serve as a positive example for others," said Mr Baey, who is an active user of social media.

Shipping executive Josh Tan, 35, welcomed the positivity. "There is something about anonymity online that brings out the ugliness in people. So it was kind of refreshing to see these good deeds," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Wan said that even in the case of "negative" videos, such as a recent one showing a 58-year-old elderly neighbour being slapped, the response from Internet users has been "positive".

Dr Wan said netizens displayed a "collective disapproval" and generated social pressure that such acts are not to be condoned.

"In their comments, people showed they cared about the elderly woman and displayed empathy," Dr Wan added.

Mr Michael Lum, an executive coach who is in his 50s, said the negativity found on social media is the result of a vocal minority who like to complain.

But he believes that with more people sharing good deeds online, things will change. "Social media is a very powerful medium to remind people that they are blessed and (they) need to return their blessings to society. "

adrianl@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 26, 2015.
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