Teach Google Photos to Quit Rubbing in Your Breakup

Breakups in the cloud.

Breakups in the cloud. (Photo: Siti Fatimah / Flickr)

You know what’s fun after dating someone for several years and then breaking up? When some web service wants to send you a stream of reminders of what it was like back when life was once worth living.

This is the situation I have found myself in with Google Photos. Mountain View has moved all its image services online. The cloud-based service is a great way to guard against losing important photos when your phone falls into the toilet. It also has mindblowing search functionality (it can find all the photos you’ve taken of food, even if you never tagged them as such). I have loaded up basically all my old digital photos into the site’s great big brain, including hundreds of photos with one estimable lady I hung with for quite a while.

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Here’s why saving all those photos of us to the cloud has made my digital life a bit less pleasant:

Google Photos does a lot of fun automated tricks. For example, if you take a few very similar photos in a row, it might automatically make a GIF, without even asking you if it should. For example, I took some photos of guys playing soccer along the waterfront in Brooklyn one night, and it surprised me with this:

Soccer along the Brooklyn waterfront.

Soccer played against Manhattan’s skyline. (GIF: Brady Dale for Observer)

It also makes automated collages under its “Rediscover This Day” feature (a use case made popular by mobile app Timehop, which launched in 2010). It looks for a bunch of photos made on the same day and groups a few together into a collage. Since I have loads and loads of photos going back years in the service, every few days I get collages, such as this one from an underground comic book show from five years ago:

S.P.A.C.E. underground press show in Columbus, Ohio.

S.P.A.C.E. underground press show in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo: Brady Dale for Observer)

The feature isn’t so great when it reminds you of a breakup, however. Every few days, the service hits me with a push notification, that might as well read:

  • “Remember that trip you guys took to Paris?”
  • “Remember this fun party you attended together in the early days?”
  • “Hey, what about these photos from when the two of you moved in together?”

Thanks, Google, but I’m moving on and your helping isn’t helping.

According to a spokesperson, there is a way you can keep getting other reminders of your good old days, but boot your ex out of the collage barrage. Here’s how:

  1. If you haven’t already, teach Google Photos who he or she is. The service will scan your photos for faces that repeat. If you are logged in, you can find them here. Look for the face you want to see less of and select it by clicking on them. It will take you to a page where it shows all the photos it believes that person is in (it’s crazy how accurate it is). Assign the person a name in the upper left.
  2. Go back to the prior screen. In the upper right, click the three vertical dots icon and then select “Show & hide people.”
  3. On the new screen, find the face (or faces) of the ex (or exes) you don’t want to take trips down memory lane with, select them and then click “Done” in the upper right.

This should prevent those faces from showing up in future collages. And you can get on with your life.

Teach Google Photos to Quit Rubbing in Your Breakup