Beijing: Chinese couples often confine display of affection to their homes and even holding hands in public is considered a definite no-no — but social media is slowly bringing such private moments in the public gaze. And not everyone is approving.
Public display of affection, or PDA, sparked heated discussion in July after controversial posts of canoodling couples on buses and metro coaches went online, Xinhua reported.
In one case, a senior citizen attempted to stop a couple who were cuddling and kissing on a bus in Qingdao city here. His intervention, however, annoyed the male and their row almost ended in a physical conflict.
A local television broadcaster carried the news, which was later picked up by websites.
Two photos surfaced showing another couple fondling and kissing each other on a metro coach in Shenyang city. The photos went viral soon after they were posted on a microblogging platform.
Many netizens commented that the Shenyang couple’s behaviour was “embarrassing” and even “disgusting”.
Li Xiaotong, who studies mass communications at Peking University, however, disagreed. She said: “There is nothing to hide for young people.”
In another PDA scandal, a woman was caught feeding her boyfriend in their office by the company’s monitoring video. Both were fired for their show of intimacy at the workplace.
Before they left, the couple took a kissing selfie in the office and posted it on the woman’s social media account. The woman ridiculed PDA critics as “jealous uncles and aunties”.
Liu Neng, a sociologist at Peking University, said people’s ideas about PDA have changed with the times and different generations define ‘proper behaviour’ differently.
“There is no doubt that Chinese are more open than before,” Liu said. 
“People now tend to express their affection rather than suppressing it. That’s not bad for mental health.”
Liu argued that people’s attitudes toward PDA reflect how tolerant and liberal a society is.
“Media plays a great role in exposing extreme PDA cases to stir a sensation, which creates the illusion that young couples are crossing the line,” Liu added. 
Li, the Peking University student, supports the relaxed attitude towards public intimacy.
“A more open culture creates an atmosphere for us to display our affection. When something interesting happens between my boyfriend and me, I like to show our affection on my Weibo and WeChat,” Li said.
By displaying their affection on social media, Li said, she wanted to share their happiness.
PDA is a kind of ceremony — a way to announce the establishment of a relationship, have it witnessed by friends, and to keep a record, professor Liu said.

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