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Photo Browsing Etiquette on Smart Phones

If you take a photo, expect others to see it.

Dear Ms. Meniscus,

Is it rude to look at more than one picture on a friend’s smartphone? When I want to show someone a picture and give them my smartphone, before I know it, they are flipping through all my pictures. Isn’t this rude and nosey?

Look But Don’t Swipe

Dear Look But Don’t Swipe,

You can bank on people not looking through your pictures on your mobile device (or just about any device for that matter) about as much as you can bank on houseguests not rooting through your bathroom’s medicine cabinet during your neighborhood’s summer block party.

Perhaps it has been ingrained on us to swipe to the next picture. If someone handed you a photo album, they expect you to flip to the next page. Not doing so could indicate that you are just not that concerned about the interests and activities that they hold most precious. There is also mystery, an unknown to what is coming next. Perhaps the next picture has a more artistic angle, better lighting, an unexpected sneeze? Some photo sequences are pieced together to tell a visual narrative. Little Jenny watching with anticipation as Daddy takes off the last training wheel off her bike, taking a tumble, shedding some tears over a scraped knee, being comforted and encouraged to get back on the bike, narrowly avoiding an encounter with the mail box, and ultimately riding off victoriously into the sunset at the end of the cul-de-sac.

While some friends or acquaintances might wait for an explicit instruction from you to feel free to look through the other pictures, most will probably not. After all, why wouldn’t you want them to look at the next picture? Do you have something to hide?

This brings me to my final point.

Don’t take scandalous, self-incriminating photos of yourself (on your smart phone or otherwise) ever, unless you want someone else to see them – which they probably will. This holds especially true for those seeking or holding public office, for no painfully obvious reason.

--M

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