Forum: Genuine dialogue key to addressing Covid-19 misinformation and bridging divide

I appreciate the insights in Straits Times associate editor Chua Mui Hoong's Opinion piece "Time for the moderate middle to speak up to help bridge divides in society" (Oct 22).

Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to speak with several friends who are sceptical about the Covid-19 vaccines. Some have embraced conspiracy theories.

For most of these dialogues, I did not begin with the intention to talk about vaccines. Nevertheless, I took the time to listen patiently as they explained their perspectives, asking questions and seeking to see the world through their point of view.

Through hours of discussion, I had the opportunity to gently correct misinformation.

I also pointed out contradictions in their perspectives. For example, vaccine sceptics believe that governments cannot be trusted on vaccines, yet selectively cite those same government sources to "justify" their views that vaccines are ineffective.

Most importantly, my friends appreciated that I took the time to listen, understand and have discussions with them.

It struck me that, for these friends, our dialogue was probably the first time they were able to engage deeply in such discussions outside the echo chambers of instant messaging or social media groups which are critical of vaccines.

I also learnt that these echo chambers tend to attract vaccine-hesitant people because they provide a deep sense of solidarity and community.

These groups affirm and reinforce their common values and beliefs about vaccines. They provide a degree of comfort amid feelings of marginalisation, especially in the light of growing restrictions on the unvaccinated.

This points to the wider consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated feelings of isolation and loneliness throughout the world.

Therefore, constructive dialogue is key to the addressing of misinformation and the bridging of divides in society.

It goes beyond lecturing one another about our differing points of view.

Instead, it involves genuine connection, listening and respect for one another as fellow human beings.

Darius Lee

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