Belfast Telegraph

In era of revenge porn and Facebook shares, I'm convinced we'll soon want to live our lives in private again

By Jane Graham

There are many moments in my life I've been happy to share. Singing So Long Marianne with Leonard Cohen and a crowd of momentarily like-minded souls at a concert in Edinburgh castle. Reciting every line of Gregory's Girl in unison with an audience of joystruck Scottish film fans at an anniversary screening of Bill Forsyth's little gem. Oh, and getting married. That really is rather enhanced by people turning up.

Lying on my back, legs akimbo, screaming in pain and racked with fear as my first child made her fraught little way into the world, however, I preferred to do in private.

This week, when a woman in Birmingham felt the pangs of pending childbirth as she stood outside Primark on a busy high street, she was not awarded such privileges. The mother-to-be allegedly screamed "The baby's coming!" and fell to her knees.

Within minutes several hundred people had crowded around her. Some of them began to film the "event". Shop security staff eventually pushed in and held up sheets to protect her modesty while the baby was being born.

Witnesses say when she was finally taken into an ambulance the new mum was waving jubilantly and telling her audience to keep filming. The baby probably has a Facebook page by now, offering a signed soiled nappy to everyone who downloads its "Hello!" movie.

Coincidentally, I heard this story after a very sunny day spent shopping in the city centre, during which I noticed a group of young girls in short summer dresses being phone-filmed by a middle-aged man a few yards away. I don't know if any of the girls saw him.

The scene reminded me of a conversation I had recently with Coronation Street star Michelle Collins, who told me she began to avoid public transport after a man sitting across from her on the London Tube pulled out his phone and began taking close-up photos of her.

We live in a strange, oxymoronic time. On one hand, the obsession with individualism has never been greater. We demand "me time" in which to escape the demands of work, parenthood and society, and indulge our own needs.

We have never been so in thrall to self-improvement bibles and behavioural therapy designed to help us find our "true self", identify what's uniquely wondrous about us, and fight to protect it from the day to day drudgery of real life.

As every reality show contestant knows, the greatest achievement of the human is to "be yourself". Even if "yourself", liberated from hypocrisy (unimpeded by politeness), is an ignorant, obnoxious bully, so long as it is "true", it is your duty to let that creature express itself.

On the other hand, to paraphrase an old philosophical query, if an event is not posted on Facebook and Instagram, does it really happen? If an opinion on Gregg Wallace's new glasses is not Tweeted, does it cease to exist?

I wonder if the next big cultural battle in the West will be between the payback of mass experience and a rediscovered recognition of the value of private, personal living and thinking space. In a world equally beset by loneliness and invasion, there are great things to be said for both.

But I worry, especially for young women, living in a world of so-called "revenge porn", where angry, embittered men post naked pictures of their exes on sites which invite viewers to rate and comment on their photos. One girl told the BBC this week it felt "like being raped 30,000 times". We really must re-consider when sharing and caring have become polar opposites.

Give Rolf up-to-date time for old crimes

Rolf Harris has been exposed as the sordid, predatory little man he is, which is good. He is to be sentenced according to the law which presided at the time of his crimes, which is unacceptable.

The law three decades ago was soft on paedophilia because society understood little about it, and appeared to care less. Now that we do understand the horror of child abuse and its power to ruin lives, why can't we apply appropriate sentences?

Under this logic, anyone who had gay sex before 1967 should still be criminalised, and anyone we now discover committed murder before 1965 should be hanged.

A nonsense.

Clare serves up a treat at Wimbledon

I was never keen on plummy, hectoring Clare Balding. But listening to her coverage of Wimbledon, for which she has often teamed up with up-and-coming Laura Robson and Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, I've changed my mind.

Surrounded by relaxed, warm women, rather than men she perhaps felt she had to compete with, she has positively melted.

Whether gushing over Novak Djokovic's tales of tummy-rubbing his pregnant girlfriend, or oohing like an excited fangirl at the sight of David Beckham, the mix of gossip, giggling and serious knowledge has produced a different kind of sports commentary, one many women will love. Including this one.

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