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GE2020: At 80, ‘hypebeast’ Tan Cheng Bock becomes an unexpected Instagram sensation

SINGAPORE — A day after revealing on Instagram that the spectacles he wears do not have lenses, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock stepped out for a walkabout without them, naturally drawing questions from the media.

A screenshot of a video posted by Dr Tan Cheng Bock on his Instagram account, showing how he types with one finger. He has been interacting with younger online users, who have called him a "hypebeast".

A screenshot of a video posted by Dr Tan Cheng Bock on his Instagram account, showing how he types with one finger. He has been interacting with younger online users, who have called him a "hypebeast".

  • Dr Tan Cheng Bock makes a connection with young online users on social media
  • He quickly learnt to use slang terms popular among the youth
  • He was asked if this was a strategy to woo young voters and he replied that he loves the youth and “respects” new ways of communication

 

SINGAPORE — A day after revealing on Instagram that the spectacles he wears do not have lenses, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock stepped out for a walkabout without them, naturally drawing questions from the media. 

Without skipping a beat, the 80-year-old veteran politician replied using millennial lingo: "Hypebeast... We all did a trick, so all of you got excited asking how come I am not wearing glasses.”

On a more serious note, he said: “I don’t need the glasses after my cataract operation. But well, I am afraid people don’t recognise me if I don’t wear glasses."

“Hypebeast” is a slang term referring to a person who is always acquiring the latest fashionable items, especially streetwear. It can also refer generally to someone who keeps up with what is trendy. 

Dr Tan was a People’s Action Party Member of Parliament (MP) for 26 years from 1980 to 2006. He was MP for Ayer Rajah before the constituency was merged with the West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in 2006.

For the July 10 General Election this year, he is contesting as an opposition candidate in the GRC.

In recent days, the former general practitioner who started his first clinic in 1971 seemed to have endeared himself to younger members of the online community. 

He has become something of an Instagram sensation due to his earnest responses to their “teachings” and his jump-into-the-deep-end attempts to use some terms that are part of millennial and Generation Z lingo, such as “hypebeast” and "woke".

It started on Wednesday (July 1), a day after Nomination Day, when he posted a video of himself slipping a finger through one of his lens-less glasses. 

The Instagram post had the caption: “One thing you do not know about me is that my glasses do not have lenses. Broadcast over. Going home to rest. Goodbye.”

That drew a strong response from among his more than 10,000 followers, many of whom called him a hypebeast.

Dr Tan later replied to thank them with the message: “This means I have been a hypebeast person for 10 years.”

The video, which also featured on his account’s Instastory, has drawn close to 60,000 views by the end of Thursday, significantly more than the number of views he had received from his other recent posts.

Dr Tan also replied to some of the comments people posted. For example, to someone who was trying to teach him another new term, “shoutout”, which is used when giving credit to someone else on social media, he said: “I can’t shout in Parliament. Only debate is okay.”

In response to the many younger followers who interacted with him, he posted an Instastory by the end of the day saying: “Goodnight, young people. So many hypebeast people chatting with me. Care for Singapore and love your hypebeast country. You are the future of hyperbeast Singapore.”

On the morning of the walkabout on Thursday, he proceeded to post that he had learnt a new word, “woke”.

In its usage among the young today, the verb that is the past tense of “wake” has turned into an adjective to describe the quality of being informed, questioning or attentive to important social or community issues.

Dr Tan wrote: “I just woke up but it has the same meaning. I know… if you see me at a walkabout today, say hi and tell me I’m woke.”

Later that morning, when asked if this is all part of a strategy to woo young voters, he said that he loves the youth and joked that “I can bully you all".

He added that it is important to “respect” a new style of online engagement and new terminology that he had never heard of in his life. 

“Now I got to get into the picture. It is very interesting. So now, you cannot talk in your new lingo. I will know!” he quipped.

COPYING WHAT HE DID IN HIS VIDEO

The next day, Dr Tan posted a video of himself on Instagram saying how he was “very sad” that some posters that his party put up at Clementi had to be taken down. 

This resulted in dozens of his followers reposting this video on Instagram.

Several online users also parodied his video of his lens-less glasses on Instagram, posing with their own eye glasses that have no lenses and poking their fingers through them.

Dr Tan’s Instagram account reposted at least two of these videos. 

When asked again on Friday if his newfound fame on social media was an unintended effect of him “having a bit of fun”, Dr Tan replied: “How can I be having fun?

“You know how much time I spent learning all these new words, my friend?” 

All that trouble, he told the media, is a form of outreach for the election campaign.

“I earn my votes, I never expect them,” he said. “You try and see whether you can do what we are doing or not.” 

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Related topics

Singapore General Election SGVotes2020 Tan Cheng Bock Instagram social media Hypebeast woke

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