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Phoneless in Singapore




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Anyone who did not look at your phone this morning on the MRT, put your hands up!

Social campaigns have been taking off  to discourage excessive use of mobile devices. Coca Cola has done it; so has Polar — a Brazil beer brand.

And last month, Giorgio Armani pledged to donate money to pay for a day’s worth of safe water for a child in need under the UNICEF Tap Project. All you have to do is put away your phone for 10 minutes.

Our students have also joined the crowd.

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Four students from Nanyang Technology University have launched a campaign to get people to put down their phones and divert their attention back to friends and family at social gatherings or at the dining table. They got 17 eateries to offer discounts to diners who put their phones down and start talking to their dinner-table companions on Feb 22.

“People in Singapore tend to be a pragmatic bunch. When asked to do something, they tend to ask ‘What’s in it for me,’ and so we decided to incentivise the pledging process to help people take the first step to positive change,” said one of the campaign organiser, Malvin Chua.

The campaign, Put it on Friend Mode, has received  positive feedback from more than 2,200 people. A few of the cafes who joined the campaign said they would continue to offer discounts to patrons who put their phones down while dining.

“Many of the cafe owners not only agreed to join the cause, but even suggested some interesting ideas that we could adopt for the campaign; such as confiscating people’s phones,” one of the campaign organisers, Jonathan Tan, said.

In a city where mobile devices and gadgets are constantly glued to our palms, many Singaporeans actually wrote in support of the campaign organisers. Some members of the public asked if the organisers would extend the campaign to family gatherings.

“The digital age is supposed to open up possibilities. It allows us to make more friends, stay connected. Always be the first to see who’s talking about what. Funny thing is, every time we use our phones when we’re with our friends, we’re isolating ourselves… pushing them away, closing them out,” said a supporter of the campaign, photographer Ivan Tan.

The campaign also saw YouTube personalities jumping in to help spread the word. YouTube videomakers, Tree Potatoes, participated in the campaign’s video – 10 Ways to Get Your Friends Off Their Phones.

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