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"Dear Facebook, Stop Showing Me Photos of My Ex"

Why isn't fb's algorithm smart enough to know I dumped him?

“The day I learned how sausage gets made (literally, I was in a cooking class with my then-partner) should have been a great memory for a city girl like me who spends birthdays washing down pizza with beer. But that night also marked the end of my longest relationship. (Turns out, the meat and spices mixed better than he and I ever did.) More than three years later, Facebook still serves me an ‘on this day’ flashback of the occasion—as if I need a reminder of the night my sexual sausage count went from one to zero. Why does the same social network that suggests I ‘Friend’ a future colleague before I even change jobs not understand that I’d rather smash my iPhone screen than see that picture? Finding a gut-wrenching memory like this on an otherwise innocuous feed is the digital equivalent of a roommate taping a picture of you and your ex to your door while you’re busy crushing a workout. One moment you’re on an endorphin high, then bam! All that negative energy you just sweat out punches you in the face. I swear I’m not bitter...I’m just, well, right. Research shows that people who Facebook-stalk their exes have a tougher time moving on than those who don’t. Logic suggests that the same recovery lag time exists when those photos are stalking you instead. It’s annoying and a serious blow to your mood. And for people healing from traumatic relationships, it can be downright damaging, says Rachel Wright, a therapist in New York City. She has post-breakup clients bring in old pictures so she can help them process, trash the photos, and move on. “But if social media then shoves these memories in a person’s face, can you imagine how challenging that would be?” An algorithm can’t ever know the full story between two people. Lucky for me, then, that a tech-savvy friend showed me how to filter memories by person or date—or even just turn them off. (Click -‘Memories’, then set notifications to ‘none’. You’re welcome.) Even still, I refused to let nostalgia get the best of me. (I know plenty who can’t say the same. I see you, backsliders, and I don’t blame you.) Instead, I logged out of FB and into a dating app. I’m now engaged to the second guy I went out with. So, okay, I’ll admit it: not every algorithm is evil.

 

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Unwelcome blasts from the past...

 

“The other day, a pic came up of a trip I went on nine years ago with the ex who shattered my heart. I still felt a twinge of pain.”—Meera K, 32

 

“After my engagement ended, I saw a memory of me and my ex-fiancé at an annual event that I know I will never attend again. I was trying to be positive, but seeing that photo was like adding insult to injury.” —Alia M, 34

 

“There’s nothing worse than opening Facebook and seeing a memory from my divorce. The outfit I was wearing, the bar I was standing in front of with a group of girlfriends...it brings back insta-sadness and a flashback to how scared I felt at that time in my life.”—SANAH R, 31