tl;dr – Statecraft in the Social Media Age


‘tl;dr’ – if you’re familiar with Internet lingos, you would know that this is simply the acronym of ‘too long; didn’t read’. Well, I must confess… I didn’t know until I googled. New short forms are made every now and then; a young Singaporean like me got to play catch-up too.

Political landscapes around the world has seen drastic changes with the risen social media age (Note the use of ‘risen’ instead of ‘rising’). As how fellow FiveStars writer Donavan has it, “We have much shorter attention spans than before. Social media has indeed changed the dynamics which we read, think and react to issues. Writing classes repeatedly emphasise the importance of a catchy headline. Slogan politics is becoming the “new normal”. Do these benefit our country at all? Perhaps not, but we are forced to adapt to a new reality.”

Social media changed the playing field of politics since GE 2011. GE 2011 saw the widespread use of online platforms by the opposition to garner support. Remember Nicole Seah from the National Solidarity Party (NSP)? No doubt, she defined the ‘transition from strict political control to a more open democracy’. She still has 110,000 Facebook followers despite losing her opposition candidacy.

The year after (in 2012), our Prime Minister created his own Facebook page. The page is managed by the Prime Minister’s Office, and posts written by the PM himself are signed off ‘LHL’.

The mainstream media was also quick to adapt, with the establishment of, edited by the deputy chief editor of The Straits Times. Turning to new media, hashtags are widely used to categorise issues at hand. News reports are also churned out from online media content.

A recent one would be from PM Lee, on the paving of a rail corridor when he was on holiday in Japan:


That same evening, The Straits Times made a report, along with nuggets of information about the 24 km stretch once used by Malaysia’s KTM railway. It definitely didn’t use to be like this.

In the past, information passed have to go through layers of corroboration – only to be presented as formal content. Today, content that are too dense for readers are made appealing to the younger audience, often with the use of infographics.

Like it or not, social media’s influence on politics is here to stay. Policies are now cut into bite-sized, digestible chunks for netizens to understand. Gone were the days of lengthy transcripts written in prose; even videos on parliamentary speeches are now made available for viewing on the Parliament website.

Nonetheless, danger lingers when specific pieces of information are picked out, amplified and misrepresented. On social media platforms where user interactions are enabled, the misinformed can be easily swayed.

With the next GE around the corner, one can’t help but wonder what kind of ruckuses social media will be kicking out. But I’m hopeful that young Singaporeans will be concerned with raising intelligent and meaningful discourse; fuel should not be added to fires flamed by those with ill intent.

(I hope this article wasn’t a ‘tl;dr’ one for you…)



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