Today, a new breastfeeding debate has kicked off as one mum shared an image of her breastfeeding her friend's son. So, the discussion prompted by Shelley Bridgeman rages on: Are we over-sharing online?
A furore erupted when Facebook took down a perfectly tasteful photograph of a woman breastfeeding her newborn baby. The image has since been reinstated and, having revised its policies on the matter, Facebook said: "As a result of this, photos that show a nursing mother's other breast will be allowed, even if it is full [sic] exposed, as will mastectomy photos showing a fully exposed other breast."
Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting in which executives grappled with the suitability of depicting "other breasts" and the circumstances under which the viewing of these objects are acceptable to Facebook? It would make a great Monty Python skit.
Sharing images or video footage of key life events, of course, has never been easier. Our great-grandmothers would no doubt be most unimpressed to think we are revealing such private moments on a global medium that boasts 1.3-billion users. Whatever notions she had of privacy and modesty clearly no longer exist.
As a commercial entity, Facebook has the right to unilaterally make censorship decisions. I always find the outrage of users to censorship they see as unwarranted charmingly naive. From their affronted reactions, you'd think they were paying customers rather than virtual lab rats who (in exchange for using a free social media service) are allowing a global corporation to harvest their data for profit. How some Facebook users can blithely continue to see themselves as the customer rather than the product is beyond me. Surely it can only be attributed to Stockholm Syndrome.
But Facebook knows how to appease its willing captives. Clearly designed to pacify even the most ardent pro-breastfeeding campaigner, its statement is patronising and blame-shifting: "We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're glad to know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies. Please note that the photos we review are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other Facebook members who complain about them being shared on Facebook."
We all have different views about precisely which points along the procreative continuum are suitable for public consumption. Which particular images or video footage we find acceptable depends on our levels of interest, our degrees of squeamishness or prudishness and possibly our own willingness to share. My own tolerances might read like this:
OKAY: pregnant bellies, labour, breastfeeding discreetly.
NOT OKAY: the act of conception, giving birth, breastfeeding like an exhibitionist.
When it comes to boasting about their fecundity some people are shameless. If these Facebook users paused from posting for just a moment, they might realise that their baby-related content is really saying: "Look, I have functioning ovaries" or "Look, I am not firing blanks." It's all pretty puerile. (Of course, to Facebook and its advertisers they're also saying that they're the prefect target market to be offered nappies, cots, bibs and other baby paraphernalia.)
In a spectacular display of over-sharing while procreating, last week singer Robbie Williams shared clips of his wife in labour on his official YouTube account. It was reported that he had "been entertaining his fans ... with amusing videos from the hospital room, including a video which showed him doing a rendition of Let It Go from the hit movie, Frozen, whilst his wife appeared to be giving birth."
• Read more: Robbie Williams shares clips of baby boy's birth
I'm not sure what to make of this. Was he simply signalling his virility? Was it a way of dealing with his nerves? Was it a violation of his wife's right to privacy? Was it a self-promotional tool? Or was it all four at once? Regardless, it was a supremely self-centred act.
I must admit I usually enjoying watching a good labour. One Born Every Minute, a reality television show which captures women in a maternity unit in England, is appointment viewing for me. It's like watching a train crash. I can't take my eyes off it. I can't decide if it's the women's response to the agony of childbirth or the guaranteed ineptitude of their birthing partners that most fascinates me. I'm also in awe of the fact these young people have agreed to have their most vulnerable moments televised. Privacy is clearly fast becoming an outdated idea.