Hey Siri, we’re broken up: ending relationships is more difficult with insensitive AI

Breaking up is hard, but there’s someone who makes it more difficult: Siri.

The digital assistant has actually become more useful in recent years, understanding more and more about our lives, schedules and habits. But it’s lacking one feature that any friend or acquaintance has: Don’t talk about the ex.

I went through a break up earlier this year. This former girlfriend and I texted all of the time, had a shared iCloud Photo album and talked on the phone. When she suddenly ended the relationship (aka I was dumped), I really didn’t want to see anything related to her, because, you know, emotions. But for the coming months, my good friend Siri — who keeps track of timers, plays music and sets an alarm every night for the morning — continued to suggest that I call or text her. Every swipe down on Spotlight, opening the Share Sheet, there she would be.

I’ve thought about several solutions:

  • I could turn off Siri suggestions for certain apps like Messages and Phone. But I use those and rely on them for other contacts.
  • Delete the entire message thread — maybe that would remove the suggestions? I can’t bring myself to do that. While I don’t want to see them now, someday I may want to revisit some things inside of them. I don’t care that it’s buried down in the messages inbox, but I don’t want any more suggestions through iOS.
  • Delete the contact card — Maybe this would give Siri the hint?

How can I tell Siri that, even though we had quite the long history of messaging each other, it’s over. The only solution I found was resetting my iPhone. All the data remained intact but the Siri data seemed to reset. There should be an easier way to do this.

Then there is also the case of photos. We took a lot of photos together and while there is a way to hide them from the main Library view, there’s no way to automate this. You can remove the person from your memories, but that only applies to photos that your device has catalogued. Google Photos offers a way to hide all photos associated with a selected face and this would be a welcome addition to Apple’s offering, but would likely require server size indexing.

As Apple services and Siri become more and more engrained into our lives, there needs to be ways to hide people from suggestions and views like this. Almost like a block contact list, but for Siri suggestions. Facebook offers a feature to not follow someone but still be their friend, and I’d love to see a feature like this offered in iOS.

All relationships are nuanced, at times wonderful, at other times difficult. All of the opportunities our devices offer with communication and recording memories is wonderful. I wish there was a way to take those pictures off the wall,” so to say, to not constantly be reminded of that person, whether for a short period of time of forever.

In my experience of previous relationships, these suggestions have made things more difficult. I can only imagine how difficult it could be if someone close passes away.

Hopefully Apple will introduce a feature where you can pause suggestions for a specific person and still use the feature for other contacts. Or, alternatively, I hope to never be in the situation again where I would need to use such a feature.


December 31, 2019