Using Facebook to Cultivate Political Awareness among
the Youth in Singapore
In Response to
“Social Media and its Impact on our Lives” Symposium, Singapore
Poh Ying Zhou
Quek Qi Yuan
Using Facebook to Cultivate Political Awareness among the Youth in Singapore This paper is in response to the “Social Media and its Impact on our Lives” Symposium, Singapore.
“The fatherland cannot endure without freedom, nor freedom without virtue, nor virtue without citizens; you will have everything if you form citizens…” Rousseau
BBC News (Leyl, 2011) estimated that nearly 600,000 Singaporeans, aged 21 to 34, are first-time voters in the parliamentary election in May 2011. As mentioned by the journalist, “Young voters could be the key”, but are these key voters well-informed about their electoral choices if they possess low political awareness? This paper will discuss the usage of Facebook, a popular social-networking website, which is aimed at cultivating political awareness of the youth in Singapore. Political awareness refers to the recognition and acquisition of either theoretical or practical political knowledge for our discussion. As the main purpose to cultivate political awareness is to help young voters make informed decisions during various elections, only information related to ‘civics’, that is “the study of the government with the attention of the roles of citizens” (Hebe, 1967), is considered political knowledge in this paper. We believe that political awareness should be raised for youths of age 13 - 21; thirteen is the age when most teenagers start acquiring maturity of judgement (Smith & Handler, 2007) and 21 is when they acquire the legal right to vote. Young voters should then possess sufficient political awareness to make wiser decisions when casting their votes. Social media is widely recognized as a form of online media that makes communication more interactive. Social media allows users to create and share contents for purposes like social networking through the use of Internet-based applications. Online social-networking refers to the use of websites such as Facebook and Twitter which provides social-networking services (SNS) for users to communicate, share information and maintain online social relations. A recent Singapore study (Russel, 2011) reveals that Facebook, a representative example of SNS, is the third most popular online source for election news and updates after Yahoo and Channel News Asia. There are 2,589,600 users on Facebook, making up half of Singapore’s total population.
1.2. Current Situation
The low political awareness among the youth in Singapore has been a long-existing problem. “I don’t know and I don’t care”, a typical Singaporean response implies the causes of the problem. One of the reasons that the youth do not gain enough political knowledge is because of the lack of engaging and interactive platforms for information sharing. As a result, few youths are interested, in addition to their poor knowledge in politics. It is important to tackle their disinterest and cultivate political awareness by disseminating related information on engaging and interactive platforms. According to a recent survey by Straits Times, 36.3% of Singaporeans prefer Internet as their source of local political news. 33% of Singaporean Facebook users are the youths aged 13 – 24 (“Facebook Statistics Singapore”, 2011), as shown in figure 1. Therein hints the great potential of Facebook at disseminating information to the youth. In the following section, we will further evaluate the level of success of our recommendations using Facebook as a tool of information dissemination. Aged 13-24: 33%
Figure 1 User Age Distribution on Facebook in Singapore
1.2.1 Case Study: Use of Twitter in South Korea
The South Korean political culture had been centered on Confucianism and...