Posted July 13, 2012on:
I read this opinion in the ST forum a few times to make sure I was not missing anything or misinterpreting it.
Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, attributed the use of mobile phones to people being inconsiderate on public transport.
One might react emotionally by asking when minding one’s own business is being inconsiderate. But the fact of the matter is that not being aware of the people around you can be impolite depending on the context.
That said, why put the blame on the medium? Yes, the e-books, games, videos, and other mobile content are very engaging (a few folks have even tried participating in #edsg chats while on public transport!), but the mobile media are not the only factor.
If you blame that medium then I would also point out that reading paperbacks, playing cards, listening to a Walkman (way back then!), or just chatting intently are just as absorbing. The traditional newspaper is a magnificent wall to place between the reader and someone who needs the space or a seat.
You can take the devices out of the hands of users and they will still be rude or inconsiderate. They can pretend to sleep, take more room than they need, or talk very loudly. (Coincidentally, as I quietly type this draft of my iPhone, a group of four university students does not care if the whole bus can hear their incessant blather.)
If you are going to address a problem, get at its roots. Attacking the symptoms will get you nowhere and you risk alienating the very people you are trying to reach.
So what is the root of the problem? In this case, I agree with Dr Wan that it is the lack of a combination of good upbringing and schooling on the use of mobile devices in public places or face-to-face social contexts.