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People here don’t care about being polite online

April 10, 2013

SINGAPORE – A large proportion of people here do not feel the need to be gracious on social media, even though they are generally more willing to voice their opinions there.

They also sit on the fence about whether information found online is more credible than offline sources.

That’s according to the findings of the latest Graciousness Index study commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) and released yesterday. For the first time, it included a component on social-media attitudes and behaviour.

Dr William Wan, general secretary of the SKM, said at a press conference at *Scape: “There’s a double standard. For face-to-face interaction, people think they have to be nice to each other.

“But when hiding behind veils of anonymity, they think they can be ungracious to each other…That’s not correct.”

He added that the new component was added this year because “social media is here to stay and it is growing”.

This comes in the wake of insensitive online postings of racist and anti-foreigner sentiments, among other concerns, he said.

Moving forward, Dr Wan said he is looking to get more people who are social media-savvy to engage other users and encourage graciousness in cyberspace.

The annual study, which polled 1,201 Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders, tracks the perception and experience of kindness and graciousness in Singapore. It is in its fifth year.

While there was a change in survey methodology after the first two studies, the index this year is at its lowest so far, having declined to 53, eight points down from 61 last year. In 2011, the index was 60.

A score of 100 means a state of complete graciousness.

Across the board, the number of respondents who said they were on the receiving end of gracious acts – these include being greeted by others with a smile, being thanked and having one’s privacy respected – fell from 65 per cent last year to 41 per cent this year.

Respondents, who were surveyed either online or face-to-face in January and February, also reported performing fewer acts of graciousness. The number of those who have done so dropped from 83 per cent last year to 62 per cent this year.

Dr Wan attributed the “disappointing” declines to a “challenging” past year, citing concerns such as the high cost of living, which includes housing and health-care costs.

“When people are preoccupied (with these concerns), they are less sensitive to kindness or graciousness. They may have actually received an act of graciousness but said they did not,” he explained.

However, many still perceived Singapore as a kind country and would like the society to be a more gracious one.

While the lack of graciousness on public transport was found to be a bugbear in past studies, this was not so this year. The latest findings show that most of the gracious acts tracked have increased.

These include the practice of commuters giving up seats to those in need, and making space to accommodate incoming passengers.

First published in My Paper – April 10, 2013

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