How to Do It

Erm, an Algorithm Just Accidentally Showed Me My Friend’s Wild Sex Profile

A woman looks at a laptop screen.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Every Thursday night, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

Recently, I was on Twitter when it recommenced I follow an account of someone I might know. The account was a woman posting photos engaging in adult baby fetish activities. All the pictures were cut off about mid-face, so her smile/nose was partially visible. No actual sex acts were shown, but it was implied in the pictures and caption. At first I had no idea why it would recommend this to me, and after looking closely at the photos and linked Instagram, I realized it was a former friend of mine. I recognized who it was based on the smile and the username being similar to another one she has used. It’s become obvious to me that Twitter recommended I follow her because her phone number is linked to the account.

While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being into what you’re into—your kink is not my kink and that’s OK and all that—it was pretty clear from the photo cropping she didn’t want her face or name associated with the account. I’m trying to figure out if I should bring this up, and if so, how. We drifted apart after a pretty bad vacation we went on a few years ago, so we aren’t really in contact. But if I could figure it out and got recommended the account, other people probably are too. Should I just ignore it and move on, or send her a message (probably to the kink account in case I am wrong about who it is?) letting her know that anyone who has her phone number might be recommended the account?

—Baby Girl

Stoya: This is an extreme version of someone’s tag sticking out of their shirt/dress.

Rich: Yeah!

Stoya: So the writer should definitely say something. The next question is, “how?”

Rich: Well, since their friendship fizzled, the writer has nothing to lose. It may be awkward writing the message, but that awkwardness surely would dissipate once the (presumably brief) exchange ended and they retreat back to their separate lives.

Stoya: Yeah. They don’t need to reestablish a relationship. Just drop a simple note.

Rich: I think one thing to consider is the soft anonymity some people adopt for these kinds of accounts. For example, I know someone with a kinky Twitter account who doesn’t post his name or face but is fairly identifiable nonetheless and indeed is identified regularly. If this person is showing part of her face and her identifiable smile, she may not be as protective of her identity as the writer assumes.

Stoya: Good point.

Rich: I mean, the writer figured it out. With all due respect, this isn’t Encyclopedia Brown-level sleuthing. Someone else could have figured it out, and the former friend might already be at peace with it given her blasé approach to obscuring herself. So it could be a non-issue. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong in letting someone know that you stumbled upon content of theirs that they might want to keep secret.

Stoya: Better to err on the side of caution here.

Rich: It could be useful and even if not, it’s a small reminder that someone they were close to still cares about their well-being. That’s a nice thing in a scary world.

Stoya: I like their instinct to reach out to the fetish account, and they should be direct, but avoid using the person’s legal name. (In case it isn’t who they think it is, or because if the person does want to keep things private use of their legal name might really cause panic.)

Rich: Right, no need to give up any information. Just say, “Hi, if you are who I think you are, you know who I am. I came across this profile and realized it might be exposing your identity to people that you’d rather keep it a secret from, possibly because your phone number is linked to your account.” Be super direct. Get in and get out.

Stoya: Exactly.

Rich: Probably just that simple, right?

For a, uh, different type of technology story, listen to What Next: TBD.