If It Can’t Say Anything Nice, Gmail Says It Anyway

Nevermind what you thought about your friends — Gmail might know better.

I think I know where my relationships stand — whether they’re with close, everyday friends, online friends, work friends, childhood friends — I can sum them up in a few sentences. (In fact, I have complex taxonomies for thinking about them, but that’s for another post.) And even though these relationships seem fairly uncomplicated, there are nuances that aren’t discussed out loud; details that go unsaid. And sometimes, important details get missed entirely as I speed through my day.

But it appears that Gmail might be able to help avoid, or at least inform, these overlooked details. Gmail can be used to prescribe the nature of relationships.

Screenshot altered to edit out seven other ads, which didn’t support my point quite as well as these, I admit.

Recently, I searched Gmail for a friend’s name, and an AdSense ad on the sidebar suggested not only, “Send Your forgiveness,” but also “Say Sorry,” and, most eloquently, “How Saying Sorry.” Despite the clumsy way Google was trying to tell me something, its message got through. At that moment, it occurred to me that, yes indeed, my recent friendship with this person had been all about apologies. Because I had been frequently late, unavailable, and even standing the person up, our email exchanges were full of “sorries.” While I assumed everything was fine, Gmail was telling me that the opposite might be true.

I tried another name. And another. Again and again, Gmail told me things about friendships that I was missing, exposing themes and details that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

AdSense will never replace paying attention to friends — nor should it ever be used to diagnose a human issue. It’s completely unfeasible to think that emotional, organic, human relationships can be supplanted by an algorithm at any level. But once in a while, it’s interesting to see what themes might be emerging, which words and phrases are most prevalent, in an ongoing dialog with a friend. Sometimes Gmail might just save you the difference between a good relationship and an uncomfortable situation.