Instagram is the perfect place to share the finer details of your life, but some things were always considered too personal to share with the world – until now. A recent viral trend on Instagram has people take a selfie immediately after having sex, in a departure from the perfect models we usually see sexualised in media. Around the same time, a Facebook group called “Women Who Eat on Tubes” gained popularity, in which members are invited to send in any photos they’ve snapped of women grabbing a snack on the move. Both of these trends are perfect examples of society going too far in documenting their daily lives.
Excessive sharing has caused a number of problems. A particularly harmful effect is that it makes people feel ashamed of things that aren’t the least bit shameful. Take, for example, the after-sex selfie phenomenon, which is making people who don’t have sex, or don’t want to share their bedroom experience with the world, feel uncomfortable or ashamed. On the other hand, we’re constantly told that being open about sex and sexuality is a positive thing because it liberates us to talk about an aspect of human life that has a huge bearing on our health and social welfare. However, taking a picture – one of the more graphic ways of opening up – can come across as bragging and leaves some people feeling as though they’re going against the norm, particularly when a trend such as this goes viral.
“Women Who Eat on Tubes”, though, is shameful as well as shaming. Whereas the after-sex selfies don’t set out to make anyone feel bad about themselves, that seems to be the very point of the Facebook page. By taking pictures of women eating with the intent to share it with a community based on bullying, people are making others feel ashamed of a common biological function. I’m eating as I write this because it’s lunchtime and that’s exactly what lunchtime is for. In fact, I eat at least three times a day, as do most people. Who cares if I eat in the comfort of my own home or while I’m moving from one place to the next? If we’re looking for things like this to share, then we’re clearly sharing too much.
Whatever an article argues, nobody really has the right to tell you how much you can post. But if you have to invade someone else’s privacy to get material, you’re clearly scraping at the bottom of the barrel and violating social boundaries as you do. One woman who found herself featured on the “Women Who Eat on Tubes” page said that she felt “hurt and humiliated”, but we often don’t think about the subject of our images as a real person when sharing them with the world – we’re all guilty of it, whether it’s a photo you’ve taken or a comment you’ve made on someone else’s. Although we may regret doing so later, and I hope the people shaming others online feel the regret soon. When you put something on the internet, there’s no taking it back.
It’s not just other people’s privacy we’re ignoring either – it’s our own. The after-sex selfies and many selfies in general are clear examples of people wilfully giving up their privacy in exchange for a few likes, or just the knowledge that somebody wants to see. Overall, this trend is less damaging than the images of women on the tube. Though, as the selfie-takers are their own subjects, they can control how they’re represented and make sure they’re happy with the result before posting it to the world, whereas the women being publicly shamed don’t have a say. However, it is depersonalising one of the most intimate acts that we do; you probably wouldn’t ask your Instagram followers to come, sit down, and physically watch, so why are we happy to share such personal details with them online? We are in some cases leaving nothing to the imagination.
Remember back to when you were young: you had to ask your parents or grandparents to get the photo albums down to look back through important events like birthdays and holidays. There were perhaps a handful of images for each, yet from those you could visualise the whole occasion. You didn’t need more. So why do we now feel compelled to post 20 pictures when we buy a new top? Hitting the shutter button is now a reflex that has left nothing private or special anymore.