It is surprising that one in four young people holds back from showing kindness in public because of fear over being embarrassed, according to an annual survey on graciousness commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) and released recently. Looking stupid or being mocked on social media was cited as being deterrents to why they hesitate lending a hand to someone in public. This fear of being embarrassed is a regrettable outcome of how some public behaviour is conditioned increasingly by the workings of social media. Surely, to be kind and gracious should be commended as an act of goodness - not lead to individuals being vilified for the helping hand they extend to others.
Interestingly, reluctance to help in public appears to wane with age, with people in older age groups seemingly less bothered by others' perceptions of them. Thus, a far smaller percentage of older people polled said that they would not help someone in public out of embarrassment. What matters to them is whether they have the ability to help. That is a practical and not a perceptual concern. Since social media refracts for the audience what is occurring at large, the question is why the young respond differently from older Singaporeans to the practice of graciousness. One answer could be that older citizens have gone through periods of turmoil and stress that make them grateful and sanguine about the economic and social life that characterises contemporary Singapore. By contrast, having grown up in a time of peace and plenty, younger people might take today's state of affairs for granted and not share the same outlook as their senior counterparts.