Breastfeeding and Facebook

Well, it would appear that Facebook has a bone to pick with breastfeeding…again. Facebook has a history of removing photos or groups of nursing women – citing “indecency”, sigh – which has prompted the organization of groups such as “Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” and many others.   Then Facebook gets some negative press, and bam, the pictures are back up.  I could swear it happens about three times a year (which given our internet culture, is about how long our collective memory span seems to be).

I think there’s a larger issue here, which is that we place great amounts of trust and expectation in an organization that has no reason to be trustworthy.  Facebook, Twitter, Google, whatever social media site you want to rely on, few (if any) of them were created to be these positive forces for good in the world (Social Network, anyone?). 

Their  goal is to generate a profit, and to be self-sustaining. They were not created to fulfill any type of social obligation to anyone else. They have certainly been used to topple regimes, and support social justice causes, but the only social benefit that they have is that which we ascribe them.  So, getting angry at Facebook for removing photos is attributing to Facebook a morality that they never said they held. 

The Time article as a few interesting quotations.  This one from

Facebook is such a huge phenomenon, and for it to stigmatize breast-feeding and demean women is a huge blow to breast-feeding and America’s generally puritanical attitude about such things.

(Sigh, our puritanical heritage.  It not only makes breastfeeding in public so repulsive to us, but also makes the US such an interesting case.  I’m not sure how Facebook is going to save us from our “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps, every (wo)man for themselves” mentality, but…)

And this one from Peggy O’Mara, the editor of Mothering Magazine:

If we are to become a breast-feeding culture in the U.S., we must see breast-feeding, and we must see it as normal. We need the support of social institutions like Facebook in order for breast-feeding to flourish in the U.S. Until they step up, we must continue to challenge them.

 I see what she’s going for here.  The number one indicator of an extended breastfeeding relationship isn’t social media…it’s support. And yes, in our social media-based culture, we are increasingly reliant on social media sites to take the place of the face-to-face interactions that we have (and to provide us with “medical information – another problem). But somehow, the assumption that Facebook has any responsibility to its users is a fallacy.  Is Facebook anything more than a platform?  (And is it really a “social institution”? Is that a scary thought to anyone else?)

Is breastfeeding normal? yes! Are breastfeeding photos obscene? Hardly!  But does Facebook have any type of moral or ethical obligation to those that use it? Nope. If I remember correctly, users check a box saying that they will act by Facebook’s rules and regs, but nowhere in those regulations is any type of social contract that says that Facebook will be fair, upstanding, and just.  If we assume that it’s the case,  then that’s a false assumption on our part.

It’s true, our culture does not expressly support breastfeeding.  The question remains as to how to best shape our culture to be supportive of breastfeeding.