MY friend was admitted to the hospital several months ago. We visited him when he was feeling a bit better and out of danger, and when the doctors allowed visitors.

He was well-liked by many, so it wasn’t surprising that he had a roomful of friends trying to cheer him up with all sorts of stories. Well, he didn’t quite have the room all to himself; there were five other patients there.

He called us all around him for a photo. He was so happy that we were there with him. Suddenly the nurse came and said, “Sorry. No photos in this ward. It is the hospital’s policy.”

We were shocked, but complied though bewildered by the situation. None of us had ever experienced this. Besides, we see hospital photos all the time. Friends upload photos of themselves receiving treatment — almost anything, from getting “gassed” for asthma to receiving stitches for cuts and attending to missing toenails, broken teeth, and so much more.

Some are quite garish; others are downright scary they make your stomach churn. Some people upload photos of loved ones in intensive care after surgery, (even funerals and wakes) on social media.

There are also photos with captions, “I’m at my relative’s/friend’s funeral”. And there they are smiling into the camera while the coffin is in the background, or when they’re at the cemetery.

I find this quite macabre and unsettling. There’s always a time and place for everything, and we certainly don’t need to put everything we do on social media, do we? Perhaps I’m one of the more private and conservative oldies. I do admit to enjoying social media like Facebook and Instagram, and I am guilty of sharing ordinary occurrences in my life. But I’d like to think that I don’t reveal all. Some things should be kept private.

To me, it’s okay to take photos for your own file and to remember an event, but keep them private and certainly not show for all to see (and judge) on social media.

So where do we draw the line? Do we need to draw a line? Do we need to have guidelines or be told the boundaries? Have we become desensitised? Do we really need to share every aspect of our lives on social media?

There are several legal outlines that can help us navigate the fascinating world of social media and keep us out of trouble. Most of the time, we can use our conscience as our guide. However, when that line gets a little fuzzy especially when you feel an urgent need to share, practise restraint. Tell yourself not to be so trigger happy to copy, paste and share.

If you’re unsure of the source, you can always do a quick check on Google to see if it’s a hoax. If it sounds too fantastic and incredible to be true, it most likely is.

Be especially careful about posting photos of children who aren’t yours. If you want to post photos of other people’s children, even though you’re in the photo, make sure you get the parents’ permission. In fact, in some states in the United States, it is illegal for anyone other than the parents to post photographs of a minor.

I have seen a photo of a friend taken while he was still sedated after surgery. The photo was taken without his consent. When he later heard about it, he requested the photo be removed. Some people may take you to court for violation of privacy or copyright infringement.

As caregivers, we can ask for visitors’ cooperation not to take photographs out of respect for the patient. Family members can also enlist the help of nurses to caution visitors too. As visitors, we should not be offended when this request is made.

We need to preserve the dignity of those in our care when they can no longer speak for themselves. I remember how strict I was when my late parents were critically ill in ICU. We pleaded with all visitors to adhere to the visiting hours. It was especially painful to watch people gawk at my parents when they were unconscious with so many tubes and wires attached to them.

Thank goodness those were the days before social media became a part of our lives.

Did you know that Facebook’s 1.15 billion users worldwide have uploaded more than 250 billion photos since the site’s launch? This staggering number comes from its users who are happy to share the goings-on in their lives.

I know of individuals who expressly request not to have their photographs posted on social media, and yet I see these up just hours after the function.

It is our duty to respect people’s rights and privacy and to not upload photos that don’t belong in a public forum.

I, Caregiver

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. You can reach her at juneitajohari

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