Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Look! My surgery is on Facebook!

That's something you won't ever find me saying, whether it's a facelift, a boob job, or something more substantial. And 'more substantial' might mean you know what, in every colourful detail.

You'd think that people wouldn't post up intimate pictures of their most personal parts. But you'd be wrong.

I heard just a few evenings ago of someone who had joyfully, proudly, but recklessly, published shots of her new vagina on Facebook. We (the friends I was with and myself) were dismayed to hear it. Those shots will never disappear. They will already have been copied many times and pasted into someone's private collection of sexy shots. Post-publication removal from a person's own FB account may not prevent their resurfacing in the future. It's much more than an own goal. It's ammunition for blackmail.

Anyone who takes that final step, and has the surgery they want, naturally feels excited about the result and what it will mean for them. They want to share the glad tidings. That's completely understandable. The notion of sharing a series of celebratory photos will also flit through their mind. That's understandable too, and so easy to accomplish nowadays, with the latest phones.

There are ways of illustrating a surgical post with pictures, although I don't know what the best way is. I personally showed not the blood and gore, but things like myself playing air guitar in the hospital bed, riffing to prove that, post-op, I was very much alive and kicking. And shots to reveal what my week in a private room had been like, with some emphasis on the food. I showed all this on my blog, in three posts titled Hospital Pictures during March 2011. There was nothing in them to leer at - unless oxygen masks, tubes sticking out here and there, and my full-length demure nightwear could thrill. At most you'd conclude that I was irrepressibly frivolous.

Even so, the fact of having been in hospital had been recorded on the Internet for all time.

I couldn't see any awful consequences flowing from that - I was already retired, so there were no workplace issues; and I was already thinking that intimate relationships were going to most unlikely in the future. But many people would have advised complete hush: no report, no pictures of any kind, not even to mention being admitted to hospital. Even in a blog which was (then) not much read.

And certainly not to post it all up on a social networking site! Because it would get networked - spread around the world very rapidly. Like a virus. This person who has now so unwisely given the world something new to gawp at will never live it down. It's a self-inflicted disaster, even though we still feel for her.

I'm not being a nanny. If you have an operation coming up, and are determined to celebrate it with published photos of the shiny new parts, then by all means go ahead. It's your body, your life. Just as it's my body, and my life. But you must accept personal responsibility for any unwelcome consequences. Even if you are never personally troubled by embarrassment, there are surely the feelings of parents and siblings and friends to think about.

No, I admit it, I didn't really think much about any of that - in the euphoria of a successful event, an amazing thing done, one is too self-focussed to stand back and consider all the ramifications of publicity. I simply took a very personal, self-defensive stance. I imagined nasty, unwholesome people surfing the web, coming across shots of my surgery, and having a jolly good snigger. Ugh.

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Lucy Melford