Facebook blocks your exes from appearing in ‘Photo Memories’

Since May this year Facebook has been dishing out nostalgia via the aptly-named “Photo Memories”. The next time you’re randomly stalking surfing around Facebook – and especially when viewing photos – you’ll notice in the top right corner of the page that Facebook will be serving, of its own volition, your “Photo Memories” from days past.

It uses an algorithm to pull bygone photos from the person whose profile you’re viewing, or mutual friends which are loaded to reflect volume of comments and “Likes”, and then throws in a dash of randomness for good measure. As always, with both Facebook and Google, the algorithm is rather amorphous and surreptitious, and it has predictably led to quite an uproar amongst the privacy brigade.

For example, Rusty V commented on an InsideFacebook.com post about the launch of Photo Memories: “I ended up finding out that my ex was cheating on me because of Photo Memories. Thanks Facebook!” Whether that thanks is genuine and grateful or dripping in sarcasm, we don’t know.

The feature did bring out some other antagonists with sorry tales to tell. Take Diana for example: “I absolutely hate this. I was shocked to see a picture of my baby daughter (a mere hour old and still in the hospital) on my home page WHERE THE ADS USUALLY ARE, with a box around her head and a Facebook message urging me to ‘tag’ her. WTF? Those are my (supposedly) PRIVATE PICTURES and you shouldn’t have the right to shove them in my face at random. F*** off!”

Why was she on Facebook an hour after the birth, you might ask? Who knows. But she was clearly unimpressed by Facebook’s efficiency.

The most vociferous debate has come from the “Don’t show me pictures of my Ex!” brigade. They’ve even started a Group on Facebook. As Neil Sedaka so famously sang “Breaking up is hard to do” and many people would prefer not to have pictures of their exes emblazoned on their Facebook profile at every page refresh.

You can, however, click the little ‘X’ next to the picture to change it to another, perhaps more pleasant, Photo Memory, but this was not enough for some outraged Facebookers.

In this case, the social networking giants did listen. On the same InsideFacebook.com post (although months later on October 18th, 2010), Sam Odio, Photos product manager at Facebook, responded to the critics.

So if you’re wondering why Facebook never shows you Photo Memories of you and your ex, now you know. However, you would have had to previously list your relationship status on Facebook for the algorithm to take effect. Those drunken one-nighters and casual flings will probably still pop up, much to your rose-cheeked chagrin.

The algorithm still needs a bit of tweaking, in my humble opinion. The pictures that you’ll notice popping up most frequently in Photo Memories will usually include your current partner, as that’s the person you probably interact with the most on Facebook. This means that you should be prepared for regular sightings of pictures with them snogging their exes from historical photos and albums.

It can be quite disarming. “Oh look, how sweet? There’s my babycakes… Wait! WTF? Who the hell is that? And why is she playing tonsil hockey with him? Damn you Facebook, damn you to hell!”



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