I suppose people get used to seeing nude pictures on the internet, but I’m sometimes surprised when I find a nude picture of someone I know.
I’m not quite sure what to do. I don't know if my friend knows the photo is there or not, or how he feels about it. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, but perhaps he would feel violated being under the gaze of the entire world. On the other hand, it might be more embarrassing if he knew people he knew were seeing it rather than total strangers.
Should I mention it? Should I offer to contact the original poster to ask that it be removed? What’s the least embarrassing approach?
And you thought the internet was just for cat videos . . .
It's worth noting that photography was invented in 1849, and by only 1850 there were nude photographs. This is not quite a new phenomenon, but with the widespread use of the internet in the last 25+ years, it's much more likely.
Discovery of - how to put this? - a friend's Secret But True Self can come as a shock. Etiquetteer admires your initial reaction of concern for your friend's privacy. Before deciding how to inform your friend, decide how you feel about it yourself. This is not always knowledge people are comfortable having, but once you have it, it doesn't go away. You may be more comfortable with your friend not knowing that you've seen that image. And that's all right. And if you choose not to say anything about it to your friend, don't say anything about it to anyone else, either.
You ask for a "least embarrassing approach," and it's a calm one. Keep your language colorless. "This looks like you, or an awful lot like you, and I thought you should be aware of it" is better than "OH MY GOD, is this YOU?!"
Here are three important guidelines:
- Don't be judgmental. You don't know the circumstances around that photo, or even if it really is your friend (the possibiliities of digital photographic manipulation being what they are). Any whiff of disapproval on your part will both overshadow your concern about your friend's privacy and make your friend more uncomfortable around you in the future. No matter how tough you might find it, stay neutral.
- Stay in the friend zone. This is not an opportunity to suggest (shudder) "getting to know each other better." That kind of proposition is creepily like coercion, even if intended to be funny.
- In the same vein, this isn't the time to ask for support of your favorite charity. "Blackmail is such an ugly word," as the old saying goes. And no, the X does not make "extortion" sound "cool," either. Stop it at once!
Reaction to News of This Sort can be as unique as the photographs you've seen. Some people will express Blithe Unconcern, others could be Exceedingly Upset. If asked, you should certainly provide information (if you have it) for them to contact the person who posted the photographs. Be prepared for your friend to ask how you happened to see this photo. If you're uncomfortable answering that question, you might not want to mention it at all.
When interaction on this topic comes to a close, you are well within your rights, depending on your level of discomfort, to conclude it with the phrase "We will never speak of this again."