By Chua Jing Wen Rachel (22J19)
While keeping up with the digital era is important to us, we should not overlook physical businesses' progress and importance to society. in our increasingly digitalised society, physical interaction remains important, not only for businesses, but also for us, in helping us to cope and adapt in this ever-changing world.
Declining businesses in Singapore
Singapore has kept its position as the world’s second most digitally competitive country, after the United States, in the latest edition of the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking. As the digital era rapidly evolves, Singapore has also been actively pushing the Smart Nation initiative to stay relevant in our fast paced society. However, the rate at which this technological era is evolving far overlooks the ability of many industries in Singapore, namely businesses such as wet markets and coffee shops.
Personally, I can still vividly remember myself accompanying my grandmother to wet markets, visiting coffee shops for breakfast and most of all, buying candy at mama shops during my childhood - these days, we hardly even visit these places anymore, with the sheer amount of workload and commitments everyone has, as well as the dwindling numbers of such places. As Dr Seuss once said: "Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Ring Pop Candy from Mama Shops
Being a large part of our childhood memories and a place of liveliness and interaction, these places are of great significance to Singapore and Singaporeans. The increase in air-conditioned supermarkets, as well as online marketing and delivery platforms greatly outweigh these businesses in terms of comfort and convenience. As such, these businesses are slowly declining.
However, digitalisation is a complicated and long-term process. Merely recognising the need for digitalisation and having a strong ambition is not enough to turn the tide and improve the declining market. There are also numerous considerations to be made with differing opportunity costs. One of them is physical business transactions, which allows for more personable interactions between the stallholder and the customers.
Such interactions also promote personalised services, which has also become a part of their identity. Unlike online transactions, these physical store stallholders communicate and connect with each and every customer at an individual level, catering to their needs and giving them a unique and personal experience. In this increasingly technology advanced society where we largely communicate through devices instead of physically face to face, we tend to detach ourselves from real physical social interaction. Hence these physical human interactions are important in ensuring we still have social contact which is vital in maintaining our physical and mental health.
Physical interaction: A coping mechanism
As we approach the busy times in schools with numerous tests as well as other activities such as SYF, student council elections and competitions, feeling stressed out is something that we would all undoubtedly face. During these times, social interaction is what is keeping many RVians going. In a survey I conducted, more than 60% of the respondents agree that physical interaction is of great importance to them as a coping mechanism, ranking it's importance at least a 7 out of 10. We may not realise it, but such interactions - even a simple wave or small chat can be largely empowering.
“Talking to people or having a listening ear would really help when you want to pour all your feelings and thoughts out, instead of just keeping it down to yourself and letting the negative emotions pile up." One of the respondents elaborated.
61% of the respondents also shared that they confide in their family friends to cope with the stress they face. This is no different for me, with the friendships I have made in my 5+ years at RV. In particular, I often meet up with some of my close friends to share what we are currently facing in school, and they are one of the key support systems I turn to when I need help. Just like how physical interaction with our friends helps us cope with the stress we are facing, these businesses also facilitate physical interaction, allowing us to forget about our stress for a moment and catch our breath.
It is thus important for us to continue recognising and supporting these businesses, which are falling behind and becoming distant to us due to the digital gap.
To do this, we can help bolster their business by promoting them on social media, simply liking and following their social media pages, or even share your experience visiting them to the people around you by word of mouth.
While keeping up with the digital era is important to us, we also should not overlook these physical businesses' progress and importance to society, as these businesses are just like us students who are currently doing their best and learning to adapt to the new environment in new classes with new classmates and teachers.