SINGAPORE - Singaporeans need to learn to engage in balanced and respectful conversations on social media instead of shutting down opposing views, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah.
Exchanging views on social media has become the norm, with people frequently being exposed to unfiltered, unverified and polarising views, which are perpetuated by algorithms that create echo chambers, she added on Thursday.
“This can lead to fractures in society over time, as we perceive one another and form identities along the lines of what makes us different, rather than what is common,” she said at the opening ceremony of the annual OnePeople.sg Model United Nations conference at Victoria School.
The OnePeople.sg Model United Nations was established in 2015 to promote racial and religious harmony among young people here.
Seeking common ground across differences will help create an environment where Singaporeans can debate constructively and understand complexities, as well as appreciate the range of perspectives on contested issues, she said.
However, when young people see incidents of racism or prejudice, they should take a stand and speak up, added Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance and National Development.
About 300 students from secondary schools, post-secondary institutions and institutes of higher learning are expected to participate in this year’s OnePeople.sg Model United Nations conference – run by youth. The four-day event, which is now in its eighth edition, ends on Sunday.
During a dialogue held after the opening ceremony, issues ranging from managing the influx of foreigners, to tackling a lack of knowledge on policies, to the relevance of the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others (CMIO) race model were raised.
The dialogue was open to the media, but organisers asked that participants not be named so that they could feel safe discussing various issues.
One question raised touched on foreigners in Singapore, and the students heard how many of them had helped grow the economy, set up companies and create jobs for Singaporeans, while efforts are being made to ensure Singaporeans have access to opportunities.
Other areas discussed include how while many foreigners here assimilate well, there may be some differences that crop up and could cause tensions. However, these tensions could be alleviated through civil discourse.
Other questions raised include how the Government and organisations can tackle the problem of the lack of knowledge on policies while not being overbearing, as well as whether the CMIO race model remains relevant in Singapore today and in the future.
CMIO refers to the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others categories used in identifying races in Singapore.
Besides the session on Thursday, the participating students will also engage in dialogues with experts and religious representatives from the Inter-Religious Organisation – a non-governmental organisation founded by leaders of various faiths – to better understand racial and religious issues in Singapore.