On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Red-faced? Certainly not!

I like to think of myself as liberal, open-minded and pretty cool, but I still draw the line at the last one. Maybe I grew up in an age when we kept diaries, which were meant to be private and secret, unlike the present generation who prefer to share their moments, even the most intimate ones, online and to count how many likes they receive from their postings.

Maybe it’s because I am 51 years old and have only one child, a daughter. Most probably, someone like this notorious blogger Alvin Tan would have to face the wrath of an angry father, and one can only imagine how serious the consequences might be. As one father has already commented, castration would certainly be one of the options.

But we are dealing with a different generation. For many urban Chinese couples, living together before marriage no longer creates emotional storms among parents as it did in the past. Even the word “cohabitation” no longer seems to be used.

There’s resentment and silent disapproval, to some degree, but no one is likely to find themselves banned from the family home.

I have attended wedding banquets where the guests cheered and congratulated couples when they announced that the wives were already pregnant. I am sure that for those in their 50s now, their parents would have walked off if the same good news was shared at their wedding banquet.

But this is the Facebook generation.

I met up with the sex blog couple, Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, last week to hear them out.

They have had their share of both condemnation and support. There seems to be some kind of generational divide in the reaction to their exploits. While those of my generation are still trying to make sense of the issue, a large section of the younger ones, those who use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, seem unperturbed and are wondering about the fuss over the couple. They also point out that Tan and Lee were not forcing their lifestyle on others.

Morality seems to be the last thing on their minds. Their stand is that those who called for the two to be punished are hypocrites.

Those who were angry with the media for providing space to Tan and Lee are in the same category, as they would probably have read every line of every article about the duo.

In fact, a check on The Star Online showed that news items on the couple continued to be the best-read stories. And on Google search, their names popped out immediately.

Tan seems to be your average boy next door. He is polite, plays the piano really well (his repertoire includes classical numbers) and is a gymnast. His body is well-toned with a six-pack to show off, as those who have seen his pictures on the Net would know.

He speaks impeccable English and talks in measured tones, very controlled and yet very open. He would put many of our politicians to shame when it comes to fielding questions from the media, really.

He is after all a graduate from the prestigious Raffles Institution in Singapore, an Asean scholar, and is reading law at the National University of Singapore. He is obviously a very smart guy. I try to think that the smartest and cleverest ones have a certain streak of eccentricity in them.

After talking to Tan, I still don’t know what makes him tick. He is clever but why would he do a stupid thing such as posting such videos on the Net? In the overall scheme of things, he has gone from a hero to zero.

In Lee’s case, she is outspoken, positive and obviously unconventional. She speaks her mind but this local graduate lacks fluency in English. She is not very coherent and occasionally gets her pronunciation wrong. She seems to reinforce our perception that our local graduates are no longer good in English.

They do not seem to really care what the future has in store for them. They are happy to live for the moment and enjoy their notoriety – or fame, in their own words.

Publicity, whether good or bad, is something they obviously enjoy. Their egos have been further boosted by young journalists who asked to pose with them for pictures in newsrooms in Malaysia and Singapore. These reporters can upload the photos on their Facebook immediately to show off their catch of the day.

As I finished lunch with them, a reporter from the Singapore-based Channel News Asia ambushed us for a short interview and photos. Tan and Lee seemed delighted by the attention.

Welcome to the Facebook generation – where the question of saving face, giving face and having face does not really matter any more. It’s a race for more Likes!