SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACT
That social media can bring together demographics is not a new thing. But Singapore's netizens last week demonstrated that their united voice can go one better and help influence change in the real world.
One of the most impactful demonstrations last week was the chorus of critical voices of netizens who reacted to the news that the MRT train was the primary transport option for disabled athletes competing in December's Asean Para Games.
After The Straits Times reported the story on Thursday, comments on the decision on our Facebook page ranged from the bemused to the outraged.
Facebook user Sandie Yang asked: "Why are the para athletes treated differently from normal athletes? Why are we putting them through such stressful conditions when they should be in top form to compete?"
Mr Gan Wee Boon was blunter in his comment: "Stupid. Able-bodied SEA Games athletes get ferried around in big air-conditioned buses. Para athletes have to squeeze it out on public transport."
For the first time in a couple of weeks, the hashtag was happy. On Thursday, the haze went away and the Twitterverse and Instagram exploded with blue-sky happiness. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong updated his Facebook account with a photo and the comment: "3-hour PSI at 68. Nice to see sunshine and blue skies, if only for a while, this morning."
Ministers and Singaporeans followed suit on social media.
The hashtag for TV competition The Great British Bake Off was trending in Singapore's Twitterverse as the finale became the most- watched TV programme of the year in Britain. Some 13.4 million people tuned in to see who won the sixth season of the show. Perhaps what made the sixth season so special was that Ms Nadiya Jamir Hussain, a Muslim woman of Bangladeshi origin, was victorious. Her bubbly and witty demeanour made her a popular winner, with some British media going as far as to say that she has done more for race relations in Britain than most politicians.
AMERICAN FALL TV
Singaporeans love their TV series and it was evident from the trending Twitter hashtags last week as American TV's fall season got into its stride. Hit shows #Empire and #theflash trended on charts last week as they returned to the small screen in the United States.
The uproar resulted in the organisers hastily calling for a press conference on Thursday to explain their decision and clarify that trains are just one of the transport options for para athletes. They have also since stopped referring to trains as the primary mode of transportation.
Another common cause which united netizens last week was the issue of companies using unsustainable sources for their products. The haze, which has blanketed Singapore for the past couple of weeks and caused an unprecedented shutdown of schools on Sept 25, has led to calls to boycott haze-causing companies.
And the calls have been heeded. On Thursday, supermarkets NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Prime removed all Asia Pulp & Paper Group products from their stores.
Commenters on The Straits Times Facebook page hailed the move.
Jennifer Irene Lim wrote: "Well done! Popular bookstores should also remove all APP products from their stores."
Tommy Tan added: "Good move, we start and hope others will follow so this problem will be solved."
It is evident once again from last week's reactions that social media is a platform to be reckoned with. Any group, from a private company to a non-government organisation, now needs to think about online spin as part of its overall media plan.
Like-minded souls can find each other more easily online and share information as well as grievances.
In some cases, such as haze-causing companies, social media voices have become strong enough, and loud enough, to effect actual change. And it is change for the better too.
SOCIAL MEDIA DEBATES
Social media has also given parents a means of sharing the joys and pains of parenthood. Last week, schoolwork took centre stage on social media.
It was a Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mathematics question, as well as a piece of grammar homework, that got parents talking online.
The maths question in this year's PSLE paper asked pupils to guess how heavy eight Singapore $1 coins weighed. And there were four choices for the answer: 6g, 60g, 600g or 6kg.
Facebook user Lee Xun Yi complained on the Ministry Of Education's Facebook page that the question had less to do with maths than with IQ. And Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao published a letter from a mother who said kids were baffled by the question.
In case anyone's wondering, the answer is 60g.
Similarly, Singapore parents were left collectively bewildered when tech start-up vice-president and Democratic People's Party member Nadine Yap posted a snapshot of the English homework her daughter had done.
The Primary 1 pupil appeared to have given a model answer to the question, but the teacher corrected the homework, puzzling Ms Yap.
The answer was written in subjunctive mood, but the teacher corrected it to present tense.
Her Facebook post promptly went viral, was shared more than 600 times and generated a long discussion thread over the finer points of grammar.
The latter is a fine example of the wisdom of crowds as grammarians emerged to explain the subjunctive mood and its uses.