Let’s work together to improve online debate


Edwin Teong Ying Keat

Published: 4:00 AM, July 18, 2017

I refer to the Big Read “In the Facebook era, whither quality public discourse?” (July 14, online).

It is wise for individuals to recognise that whether social media is or is not conducive to public discourse depends on their awareness of the content they plan to post, such as its veracity, and the ramifications, legal or otherwise.

The accessibility to technology allows users to post opinionated comments, sometimes oblivious to the fact that their posts are often subject to scrutiny or will at least elicit responses.

Having said that, discourse means the sharing and exchange of viewpoints, allowing for disparate perspectives, and thus any conclusion on the quality of discourse would be subjective, rather than reached by consensus.

For instance, public discourse is sometimes polarising, given that existential arguments may be conflicting, acrimonious or both.

The nature of public discourse in itself can be difficult to define, given that individuals using social media, from keyboard warriors to academics, air their views on a multitude of issues.

Critics might ask: Is social media the right platform for issues of academic and sociopolitical interest, given that anyone can contribute and views are sometimes shared off the cuff, without consideration or structure?

Considering this potential pitfall of social media, individuals should exercise discretion and be aware of the nature of the issue on which they wish to air their views.

Perhaps by doing so, we can avoid blather insofar as serious issues are concerned.

In a nutshell, whether or not public discourse on social media conduces to fruitful discussions often hinges upon the collective efforts of individuals.