One of my favorite coworkers is remarkably taciturn. His bark has (hilarious) bite, but he’s more likely to keep mum than not. He probably adheres to that “if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all” adage (that’s how it goes, right?) which I clearly far too often forget to subscribe to.
A few weeks ago though, he had something to say.
“Oh my god. Ashleigh just sent me a photo of a meme she wanted me to see. And there’s a picture of her new boyfriend, naked in a hot tub, in the background.”
My coworker was shaking with laughter. The rest of us crowded around, and next to a fuzzy duckling saying something crass was yes, more than enough crack to make cracks about.
It’s a great story – and one with a reasonably happy ending, since Mr. Coworker and his former ladybird are on good terms, and he was able to tease her about it (she was immediately horrified and defensive, thinking he was mad). But it leads to a larger issue, which is: assuming we’re all carrying cell phones (or as Dan Savage calls them, mobile porn making devices), and assuming (probably rightly) that a lot of us are snapping slightly racy photos for our sweeties once in a blue moon – what is the proper etiquette for when you send the oh-so-right photo to the oh-so-wrong person?
Emily Post certainly didn’t have a formula for that one, leaving the entire smart-phone carrying population in the possible conundrum of looking royally ridiculous in their birthday suit.
Ten bucks says my mom would tell you, “Well, just don’t send those photos.” And I mean, she’d be right. The best way to keep secure information secure is just not to share it.
We live in the real world though. This is going to happen to you, as either the giver or the receiver, if it hasn’t already. And it goes beyond mere mortification. There are possible professional ramifications to boot (at least for awhile longer, though Dan Savage has thoughts that the negative backlash for exposing yourself online will go the way of the dodo – and the way of the inhaling pot-do). So what, exactly, is your best bet?
I don’t have the right answers per se, but I do have answers:
1. Whether you’re the sender or the recipient, the first order of business is to acknowledge it’s happened. Either apologize or just a friendly note back of “think you’ve got the wrong guy.”
2. Second order: deletion. If you’re the recipient, there’s a yet-to-be-written rule that deleting the photo is proper – and letting the other person know you’ve taken this step. Should the recipient not say anything, it’s well within the sender’s right to politely inquire about the status of said photo.
3. Third order: laugh. It happened! It was embarrassing. Now do as Ralph Waldo Emerson says and “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”