Got caught checking out somebody’s old Instagram photos? Just tell the truth

When you double tap by accident, all kinds of uncomfortable situations can arise. Stay calm

A woman in bed looks at her phone.
A woman in bed looks at her phone.Natalia Lebedinskaia (Getty Images)
José Mendiola Zuriarrain

Being woken up at 4:00 a.m. by a video call from an ex from whom you haven’t heard in years. Liking your next-door neighbor’s Facebook post. Unintentionally retweeting someone you hate. A slip of the finger can quickly turn into a small tragedy, a mess from which it is not always easy to come out unscathed. It is the embarrassing moment that occurs when (damn you, human curiosity) a person is taking a peek at a WhatsApp profile picture and accidentally taps the video call button. And of course, this list would not be complete without the dreaded accidental likes – oh, no! You didn’t mean to double tap. What will they think?

That awkward moment we all want to avoid

“The first thing you should do is accept that you messed up,” explains Mauro A. Fuentes, teacher of digital strategy and content at the IsDI business school, “in case you were social media stalking someone.” If that is the case, any explanation that strays from the truth can potentially turn into an even bigger humiliation. “You should try not to make a fool of yourself by making up strange excuses,” explains the expert. Just save everyone the embarrassment.

Something like this happened to Juan (who prefers to remain anonymous): one sleepless night, he decided that it would be a good idea to check out his ex-college mates WhatsApp group to see if time had been kind to his friends or not. Juan found a woman’s profile picture – a friend of his wife – and, as he shifted around on the couch, he tapped the nuclear button. At 3:00 a.m., to boot. What to do? Our hero did the most honorable thing, came clean and immediately apologized via text. Today it is all an amusing anecdote.

Whatever you do, remain calm

“The most common reactions may be fear, disbelief (’it didn’t really happen – did it?’) and shame,” explains psychologist Joan Salvador Villalonga. “They are normal reactions, which we experience in many other moments of life and for which it is best to take a deep breath and remain calm,” he adds. The expert recommends not panicking, because “intense emotion, whatever it may be, makes it very difficult to make important decisions.” Faced with this accidental tap, there are several alternatives with which you can try to save face, but “whatever it is, the decision must be made calmly.”

In most cases, the incident will become nothing more than a vague memory for everyone involved. “Only when that tap or involuntary video call could have serious consequences should we be concerned,” explains Villalonga. “For example, when we tap our boss’ profile or if there’s a job at stake,” he says.

Why don’t the platforms prevent this situation?

The facts show that the platforms do not do enough to prevent these accidents. Why is the WhatsApp video call button next to the profile picture? Why is it so easy to double-tap, when the natural gesture is to have our fingers on the screen? Could it be deliberate, or this the result of poor interface design? Fuentes is clear about what he thinks: “I have the feeling that certain features may be close together on purpose,” he explains, “just like when a platform changes the position of its buttons and features, increasing the risk of a faux pas to a virtual certainty.”

This digital communication expert refers to the “casual mistakes” that Instagram sometimes leads to: “It is quite common to mistakenly reply to the story that a friend sent you, with that response going to the original author and not to your friend.” In this sense, Fuentes suggests that the platforms could use tools to warn the users before they do something inappropriate. A small alert could pop up when one starts a video call with someone who is not even among their contacts, for instance.

To avoid these kinds of awkward moments, experts recommend caution when you want to snoop around your contacts’ profile pictures. And if disaster has already struck, the best thing you can do is always tell the truth: at least that way you will be remembered as brave and honest (aside from nosy).

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