Online village cannot beat physical community

Dr Tan Kok Heng has insightfully asked if the advent of technology has disrupted how we define a community or kampung spirit, and how online platforms can support bonding and help neighbours to interact (Online communities the new kampungs?; July 1).

The Singapore Kindness Movement has been promoting the revival of the kampung spirit, and we recognise that the spirit of community must encompass the online community, beyond the immediate physical community.

Many people interact with one another on various social media platforms, and these groups are flourishing around us.

The Singapore Kindness Movement also encourages online interactions through our HoodChampions platform, ultimately bringing neighbours and neighbourhoods together to build relationships with one another.

The bonding of the physical community is still of utmost importance.

The virtual Internet community must be translated into face-to-face interactions if true connectivity is to be achieved.

As the extended family is no longer found in one physical place, and the nuclear family is shrinking in size, it becomes even more important that we reach out to neighbours in times of need.

Being near at hand in times of emergency, they are more likely to make a difference.

In high-density high-rise living, compounded by the long working and commuting hours, it is too easy for neighbours to excuse themselves from interacting with one another.

Such a nonchalant attitude will, in time, result in a cold lonely place.

In the light of the threat of terrorism, it is incumbent on all of us to know who our neighbours are.

Fostering the kampung spirit enables people to move about in a manner that makes recognition practical and meaningful. It will facilitate neighbours by chance to become friends by choice.

It will create a new level of neighbourhood watch, where a shared sense of stability and security will be the desired outcome.

While the advent of technology may disrupt how we define community, we must not let it disrupt the security inherent in knowing the members of our community.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'Online village cannot beat physical community'. Print Edition | Subscribe