Gmail Ads Need to Stop Targeting Our Broken Hearts

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The email service's little ads are harassing a friend with unwanted relationship advice

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For the past week, a friend has been going through a painful breakup. She has been coping in the way most people do -- talking on the phone, texting, and, of course, gchatting.

And, as a result, not only do a few friends know about her breakup, but Google does too. This was made clear by a banner ad she saw when she opened her email this morning:

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Grrr, she thought, and emailed me a quick note including some choice words, which will not be rewritten here, but amounted to, "Seriously, Google?" Here she was, trying to work, trying to think about things other than her breakup, and Google wouldn't give her any space. 

An hour or so later, another ad appeared:

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This one was worse. "That was so offensive," she explained, "because we both handled [the breakup] with honesty and integrity and we both really care about each other. ... So to have this snarky little message in my face really pissed me off!" Google may "know" what happened, but it doesn't understand it. This gulf between knowing and understanding is what makes the Google ad bot an insensitive little bot.

The kicker came around lunchtime, and at this point we just had to laugh:

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Dear Google,

We know that we conduct our relationships, our work, and more or less every aspect of our lives through you. You are incredibly handy and reliable, and we sincerely appreciate everything you do for us. We are not ungrateful.

As a result of our reliance on you, you know us inside out, better than even our close friends.

But there is one thing about us you don't seem to get: Whereas you are a robot, we are not.

Please consider this when pushing your ads in our faces.

Thanks!


Images: 1) Anonymous; 2, 3, & 4) Google.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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