Woman's Letter To Tech Companies After Having Stillborn Child Calls Out Insensitive Ad Targeting Issues
Gillian Brockell, who works as a video editor for The Washington Post, was pregnant for 32 weeks before the unborn child unfortunately passed away in utero, causing her to have a stillbirth.
According to Brockell, the pain of her traumatic experience was only made worse by targeted advertisements on social media. The ad marketing algorithms all believed she was pregnant and constantly reminded her of what she'd been through by trying to sell her products for her deceased child.
Brockell commented to BuzzFeed News:
"The most painful thing is losing my child. But going back to social media is very painful because of the advertising."
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian Gillian, I'm so very sorry for your loss! I know we don't know e… https://t.co/qUtysBeb3V— Liz Wheeler (@Liz Wheeler) 1544572691.0
She tried to "teach" the computer that she was no longer pregnant by selecting that the ads were "not relevant" whenever the option was presented.
Unfortunately, her computer drew the wrong conclusion.
"I was trying to teach it that I wasn't pregnant anymore, but it seemed what it learned was that I had delivered."
Instead of going away, as she'd hoped, the incessant ads simply became targeted towards new mothers instead of expectant ones.
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian I'm so sorry, Gillian. Thank you for your bravery in posting thi… https://t.co/FP14nYA2oi— Jody Avirgan (@Jody Avirgan) 1544564244.0
The final straw was when Brockell received an email from credit-monitoring company Experian "inviting [her] to finish registering [her] child for lifetime credit tracking," (which she hadn't ever started).
"I could not believe I was getting spam emails to track my dead child's credit."
Brockell penned an open letter to the tech companies that targeted her online asking how they were able to tell she was pregnant, but unable to figure out that it had ended in grief.
An open letter to @Facebook, @Twitter, @Instagram and @Experian regarding algorithms and my son's birth: https://t.co/o8SuLMuLNv— Gillian Brockell (@Gillian Brockell) 1544560283.0
The full text can be seen here.
Part of her letter reads:
"You see, there are 24,000 stillbirths in the United States every year, and millions more among your worldwide users."
"And let me tell you what social media is like when you finally come home from the hospital with the emptiest arms in the world, after you and your husband have spent days sobbing in bed, and you pick up your phone for a few minutes of distraction before the next wail."
"It's exactly, crushingly, the same as it was when your baby was still alive. A Pea in the Pod. Motherhood Maternity. Latched Mama. Every damn Etsy tchotchke I was considering for the nursery."
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian Ten years ago, the amazing hospital where I delivered my stillbo… https://t.co/1twZrZ0h47— Amy D (@Amy D) 1544570306.0
"And when we millions of brokenhearted people helpfully click 'I don't want to see this ad,' and even answer your 'Why?' with the cruel-but-true 'It's not relevant to me,' do you know what your algorithm decides, Tech Companies?"
"It decides you've given birth, assumes a happy result, and deluges you with ads for the best nursing bras (I have cabbage leaves on my breasts because that is the best medical science has to offer to turn your milk off), DVDs about getting your baby to sleep through the night (I would give anything to have heard him cry at all), and the best strollers to grow with your baby (mine will forever be four pounds, one ounce)."
Brockell's letter resonated with many, causing it to go viral and for many readers to reach out to her on social media with support. Of the responses, Brockell said:
"It's just people saying that happened to me too, and I'm sorry."
Facebook made me a very nice Year In Review video, compiling random pics I posted. But this was NOT a very nice ye… https://t.co/aiPSZRVTCM— Bobby Choquette (@Bobby Choquette) 1544630246.0
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian this is so eloquently put and I am so sorry and angry the algori… https://t.co/yjMSkMmCRY— Alexandra Petri (@Alexandra Petri) 1544564629.0
@gbrockell My deepest condolences. Thank you for speaking out.— Leah McElrath (@Leah McElrath) 1544566140.0
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian I am so sorry for your loss! I teach Mathematics, and I would li… https://t.co/7sQeqh1thw— Kenny (@Kenny) 1544568772.0
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian This is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m sorry. As someone who wor… https://t.co/8n3cmBTvGU— Jason Almeida (@Jason Almeida) 1544564519.0
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian I’ll make sure all of my computer science students will see your letter.— Hawkguy (@Hawkguy) 1544566123.0
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian Gillian, what a brave thing you've done here, and in the midst o… https://t.co/GQhmWsxMll— Connie Schultz (@Connie Schultz) 1544586297.0
When approached for comment by Buzzfeed News, Facebook directed readers to a tweet in response to Brockell made by their head of ads, Rob Goldman.
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian I am so sorry for your loss and your painful experience with our… https://t.co/2s2P0fF6Im— Rob Goldman (@Rob Goldman) 1544587981.0
Though Gillian would eventually learn how to disable the posts, she also thought the process was unnecessarily complicated considering companies were able to automatically turn them on, but then unable to realize they had become irrelevant.
To turn off the painful ads, Brockell went into Facebook Settings > Ad Preferences > Hide ad topics > Parenting.
But even after changing her settings, ad companies still found a way around Brockell's preferences.
And here's a look at how effective it is when you finally do find the corner of Facebook where you can turn off par… https://t.co/lOhlG7Op1J— Gillian Brockell (@Gillian Brockell) 1544656434.0
Twitter also responded to Brockell's targeted ads. In their official statement, they said:
"We cannot imagine the pain of those who have experienced this type of loss. We are continuously working on improving our advertising products to ensure they serve appropriate content to the people who use our services."
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian The same thing happened to me on @Pinterest after we lost our pr… https://t.co/o5Zk13HKjg— Maggie Myszka (@Maggie Myszka) 1544566073.0
Around 24,000 parents experience a third-trimester stillbirth in the U.S. annually and Brockell says the most important thing you can do if you know someone who's gone through that experience is to simply let them know they're in your thoughts.
"It can be a lonely feeling."
@gbrockell @SophyRidgeSky @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian Heartbreaking. I lost four pregnancies (although… https://t.co/62zp50uoSR— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@Julia Hartley-Brewer) 1544565153.0
@gbrockell @facebook @Twitter @instagram @Experian Thank you for having the courage to share this.— Killian Walsh (@Killian Walsh) 1544563862.0
When you gotta go, you go.
That should be a mantra for getting rid of the toxic people in our lives.
Not every relationship is meant to last forever.
Some people don't know how to be friends.
They are awfully good at pretending though.
Be vigilant of the signs and red flags.
Toxic people are crafty.
And once you're free, never look back.
Redditor _ReDd1T_UsEr wanted to discuss the reasons why many of us decided to cut some people out of our lives, so they asked:
"What was the reason why your friendship ended with someone?"
Sometimes a person just has to go.
Planning StagesWeekend Sunday GIF by DisneyGiphy
"I stopped being the first to always initiate plans, and that was that."
"I once asked a friend to plan our next breakfast + walk outing, since I always did that. He wrote me a letter ending the friendship. Stunning!"
Pants on Fire
"Habitual lying became too annoying and disruptive to tolerate."
"When you constantly are thinking... this math ain't matching lol. People that lie all the time make me sick. I've told multiple friends that you don't have to lie to me."
"I feel so much better when someone can trust me and feel comfortable telling me a hard truth than an easy lie."
"Even if the truth made me feel some type of way, I'm still glad it was honest. I've even said thank you to people in the past that have been honest with me, good or bad! Some people just can not help lying about things. I wouldn't be able to ever keep a story straight if I did that."
"He kept having kids with different girls and bailing on them. Coming from a 'went out for a pack of smokes' Dad myself, I just couldn't watch it anymore. Bailed after the third one. Think he's up to 6 now."
"Reminds me of one of my ex-friends. She kept having kids with MULTIPLE guys (all of them were one-night stands), I don't think she even knows who the baby daddies are."
"She also kept begging me and people for money for pot, and she also bragged about having OnlyFans. She'd also make up stories about being in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend (she'd also cheat on him/tell people her and him they broke up, which they weren't)."
"I was a bad person and they ended it for perfectly sensible reasons. I would have done the same. I've changed, but I don't blame them for not reconsidering contact."
"I’ve been there. I was a bad person and lost friendships and family relationships. I tried to apologize to everyone I hurt."
"I also accepted that they don’t want me in their lives anymore. I learned that I made my mistakes, I learned from them, and I accept their choices. I don’t self-hate anymore and I try to be a better person in general. I hope you are doing well and practicing self-love and forgiveness."
Money IssuesDonald Duck Money GIFGiphy
"I lent them $20 and then they avoided me so they didn’t have to pay me back. Worth the $20."
"I don't ever expect prompt returns of small amounts of money between my friends... we all buy each other rounds or buy the food for the BBQ or whatever. It ends up evening out over time I think we'd notice though if someone was always taking and never giving and then they'd probably get cut off too."
In the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper... "Money Changes Everything."
Lack of SupportHappy Planning GIFGiphy
"She joined a pyramid scheme selling butt-ugly leggings and it took over her whole life. When I finally told her it was negatively affecting our friendship, she accused me of not supporting her 'business.'"
"I was basically a taxi for my friends so I dumped them all."
"This one I can understand but depends on the situation. Not all of my friends had cars in high school, so our group needed to have me and my sh*tty '94 Plymouth Sundance come, or they couldn't do anything. I didn't mind at all then, but I definitely would these days."
"I remember I used to drive around with my buddies all the time before they had licenses. When one of my friends got his and a car I said sweet now you can drive me around for a bit, he replied that he wasn't gonna waste his money on gas like that. See ya, haven't really spoken to him since."
"How's this for oddly specific: Friend since 1980, was hanging out at a bar in 1992 and there was a dispute of over a $15.00 bar tab. I was in the right, but whatever - he held a grudge for years."
"Ran into him in 2017 and we were both too old to care. Started to see each other now and then. 2023 and we're at this local bar for a show and got into a fight about $15.00 a ticket."
"Maybe he'll call me in 2063."
"She was a taker, constantly. When I needed something she made it about her yet again. Exhausting to be around."
"I'm going through this right now. Can't tell you how many texts I have from her in the past few days telling me that I need to get over myself, need to stop making myself the victim, have been a terrible friend, have never been there for her."
"She's the most narcissistic person I know and everyone does everything for her. She has one of the easiest lives ever and anytime anything bad happens to her she believes that everyone is against her and she's the victim here. It's pure insanity. There is no talking sense to people like this."
Life Changespoint pointing GIF by Shalita GrantGiphy
"I've lost like all but two of my 'friends' because I stopped drinking and doing hard drugs."
"Same here dude. My circle is small but hey at least it's a circle I know I can go to."
Oh, how things change when the booze dries up.
How much fun were you really having?
Do you have any stories about cutting off a friend? Let us know in the comments below.
People Who've Attended A Wedding Where Someone Actually Objected Share Their Experiences
There's nothing quite like the drama that can arise at a wedding or in the days leading up to it.
But the moment people don't necessarily think about is the moment when the audience can choose to object if they so choose, and surprisingly, some people take advantage of this opportunity. It often doesn't go well.
Redditor AustinMakesStuff asked:
"Has anyone ever been to a wedding where someone actually objected, and if so, how did that go?"
"I went to a wedding where they skipped that part because the bride's adult daughter was planning to object."
"How was this known? Had she pre-announced her intention, or was she just that kind of person and people had accurately predicted it?"
"She told somebody, and they told the bride and groom."
Uncovering the Con Artist
"I feel like about half of weddings these days don't have that part, and not because of feared objections, just because it is outdated and weird. Premarital sex is a thing. Divorce is a thing."
"Weddings cost like over $10k; if you know reasons to stop a marriage (outside of movies), you need to intervene at the engagement or earlier, not during the ceremony."
"That said, one of my wife's college roommates canceled a wedding like a day or two days beforehand, right after graduating college, after being in a long-distance relationship with some guy for a year or so. Her family was quite well-off and she was dating a guy who lavished gifts and expensive dates on her whenever they were together, said he ran his own company, just bought them a fancy house, etc."
"It turns out he was just super in debt, working a near minimum wage job, and maxing out credit cards taken out fraudulently. He had a fake web page with other employees for his company that he set up for the sole purpose of keeping up the front. The house was only bought from grossly lying about income (pre-2007 housing crisis) on the mortgage application, and he was drowning in debt."
"The almost-bride's father got bad vibes about the guy (a few things didn't add up, like he had this fancy house but couldn't afford any furniture), and he hired a PI (Personal Investigator) who quickly uncovered the deception."
"(And she didn't break up with him because he wasn't rich, she broke up because he spent tons of effort to lie about everything and was completely conning her and just trying to get her roped into joint ownership of his debt via marriage that he expected the family to pay off.)"
"My husband's first marriage. The brother of the bride stood up and said to my husband, 'Say no, you can still be happy!'"
"They went through with the marriage and wound up divorcing with a messy breakup."
"Brother-in-law is still best friends with my husband (as far as he's concerned, he gained a brother and lost a sister, and is better off for it), and he never lets him forget the fact that he was right and he should have bailed, lol (laughing out loud)."
"My auntie's fiance was already married (a lady stood up waving the marriage certificate), so the wedding didn't go ahead. The reception was on a long boat so we still went to that."
"The fiance went back to his home country to sort it out and never came back."
"I worked a wedding where one of the moms objected, but I think the groom knew that the parent was going to say something, so they just responded with, 'Oh sit down, (parents name), we knew you didn't like this a year ago and clearly we're not going to change our minds today."'
"The wedding continued like nothing happened, but the mom was lowkey shunned and people avoided her at the reception."
Going Separate Ways
"This was in America, and the wedding was in a Buddhist temple. The parents of the groom stood up and objected because they didn’t believe the bride was of the same class. They spoke in another language so most of the English-speaking guests didn’t know they were objecting."
"My husband was the best man and those closest to the couple knew this might happen. The Buddhist priest said he would handle it if the parents tried anything."
"After the parents spoke for a while, the priest said to the groom, 'You’ve heard what your parents had to say, what do you want to do?'"
"The groom replied, 'I want to marry my bride.'"
"So the priest asked the parents to leave."
"At this point, the rest of the guests are clueing in that this was not a nice part of the ceremony, and that the parents were actually objecting, so, as the parents walked out, some of the guests were berating them saying things like, 'You should be ashamed of yourself,' and 'How could you do that?' Even though the groom was not happy with his parents, that was very hard for him to hear."
"That was 30 years ago. The couple is still married. They have two beautiful, successful children. After the groom’s mom passed away, the groom’s father came around and was involved in their lives until he died."
Not Meant to Be
"A woman, in her twenties at the time, objected to her mom marrying my uncle. So she started yelling, 'Mom, don’t marry him!' during the ceremony."
"The ceremony proceeded, and some family on the mom’s side lead the daughter away to quit interrupting."
"I don’t blame her. My uncle was a lying, lazy bast**d. The marriage didn’t last."
The Best Man Swap
"I went to a wedding where the best man was replaced a week before because he banged the bride. But the wedding still went ahead just with a different best man. They are divorced now."
Joke Gone Wrong
"I went to a Catholic wedding where, when the priest asked this question, one of the groomsmen did a VERY loud, long, throat clearing, which got everyone laughing."
"Everyone except for the bride's elderly Italian Grandmother, who marched out of her seat and angrily hit the groomsman with her handbag and shouted at him in Italian!"
Giving Away the Bride
"I objected. I took giving my sister away literally."
"I wasn't the brightest three-year-old."
Wedding Invitation Revenge
"At my cousin's wedding, her friend said, 'I object,' because she was not invited to the wedding. She was kicked out of the wedding."
"Not quite the question as asked, but too funny to not share:"
"Priest: 'Any objections?'"
"Father of the bride: lets out the hardest, loudest, most complex-sounding sneeze I've ever heard in my life, completely with involuntarily saying, 'ACHOOOOOO!'"
"Mother of the bride, hammered on champagne: 'For f**k's sake, Jerry!'"
"It took a good five minutes for everyone to regain their composure."
The Bride Who Got Away
"I had a friend who was a minister, and the subject came up if he asked the question during ceremonies he officiated."
"He laughed and said no way. He basically tells the couple not to include it because it only invites a moment of anxiety at best, misery at worst."
"His best story (and one of the reasons he stopped including the question) was about a couple where in the lead-up to the wedding, the couple was obviously in love. The bride-to-be was very smiley and happy."
"But the day of the wedding, she was stone-faced. He (my minister friend) knew something is up because he’d never seen her like this and he asked if she was okay. She just said, 'I’m fine.'"
"Right before the service, he asked again, and 'I’m fine.'"
"He got to the question, 'Does anyone object to this union?'"
"The bride reached over, grabbed the Maid of Honor's hand, shoved her into the bride’s spot, and said, 'You’re screwing him, you marry him.'"
"Then she stormed out of the church."
An Unforgettable Toast
"At his rehearsal dinner, a coworker's mother's toast included that his soon-to-be wife was a 'd**n dirty w**re who wasn't good enough' for her son. Folks were not happy. (The video ended so didn't see the whole thing.)"
"At the wedding which I attended, his mom started to say something at the 'speak now or' part but was silenced by her daughter. Mom left and didn't see the rest of the ceremony."
"Everything about that poor guy was drama."
"Attended a wedding where the minister said something along the lines of, 'If anyone here objects to this marriage, you can keep your mouth shut. Today is not about you.'"
Bonus: Funeral Shenanigans
"Not a wedding, but at a funeral someone objected to the death."
"At my uncle’s funeral, his ex-wife and a local church [cult] leader tried to raise him from the dead. We were all sitting there like normal people at a normal funeral and she walks up to the casket and starts yelling, 'James Lester, raise up!'"
"I didn’t know she was there or I would’ve prepared myself for shenanigans. Also, I didn’t know my uncle’s middle name was Lester, so please imagine the confusion. So she and the cult leader are literally yelling at my uncle’s body."
"Not surprisingly, my uncle refused to resurrect himself. They were escorted out."
"I’ve actually never told this story because it makes my family look insane."
The last thing a person wants is for their to be drama on their wedding day, but like any other major event, sometimes something will come up. But having someone try to put a stop to the wedding, in front of everyone, certainly will add a terrible note to the wedding day.
Financially speaking, most of us could benefit greatly from having extra money each month.
But where someone might assume that the extra money would just be wasted, most people would apply these funds to very practical purposes and expenditures.
Redditor dothepingu asked:
"What would you do if you had an extra $1,000 every month?"
"A couple of weeks ago, I went to the dentist and overheard a heartbreaking situation."
"The office had a very open floor plan with privacy screens rather than individual rooms. But you could still hear every single conversation."
"This teenage kid comes in and says that he has a broken crown that needs to be fixed."
"The dentist says that it will cost $700. Kid says he has to call his mom first."
"So the kid calls the mom, and the mom says, 'No way in h**l can we afford that. Just tell the dentist to stick the old one back on.'"
"The dentist is like, 'Are you sure? That's not really a thing. It's just gonna break off again.'"
"The mom says too bad, he has to live with it."
"If I had an extra $1000, I would have picked up that tab for that kid."
"Pay off debts and save."
"Exactly my thoughts, start actually being able to plan things and save money rather than being on the back foot all the time."
"Absolutely. Money just helps so much for lowering stress!"
"I'd ask my husband to take more time off work. We don't need the extra money, I'd rather have his company."
"Save more money and continue with my current lifestyle, except maybe also be able to get eye surgery for my worsening vision."
A Little Self-Care
"I'd start actually getting my hair cut and colored by someone that's not me at 3:00 AM feeling brave."
"I feel attacked by this comment, it feels personally directed at me."
"Be able to take care of my and my wife's mental health a h**l of a lot better."
"Her therapy is important but expensive. I would love to make sure she had more appointments and the best care."
Time to Retire
"Retire. 1000 USD per month is LIFE CHANGING in the Philippines."
"Probably move out of my uncle's shed."
"Make an extra mortgage payment; pay off this house twice as fast."
"I'd try out that three meals per day trend that people talk about."
"I'd settle for one meal a day and not living in my car."
"Dude. Been there for six months. One day we'll make it big. We'll sleep on a mattress and eat TWO meals a day."
"I'd work fewer hours. I've been here for 32 years and haven't been able to take a vacation in over four years."
Providing for Family
"My mom recently became single, with three kids and a grandkid at home. She and two of the kids who live with her are unable to work because of severe health problems."
"I know she is constantly terrified about how she's going to pay the bills. I'd give her the $1,000 each month in a heartbeat."
Man's Best Friend
"I'd finally be able to afford a dog."
"Live instead of survive."
While there are millionaires in the world, or even just people who live very comfortably, most people are currently living paycheck-to-paycheck, give or take a few hundred dollars. And that $1,000 extra each month would make all the difference.
When love is on the rocks and there's no salvaging a relationship, it's better for a couple to call it splits.
Sometimes the reason for a breakup is obvious.
Other times, it's more complicated.
But the people involved going their separate ways is better than staying in an unhealthy relationship.
Curious to hear from ex-lovers who've been there, Redditor Lishasquarepant asked:
"What caused your last break-up?"
These Redditors found they and their significant other were no longer on the same page.
"Simply, we grew apart."
"Same, I feel like Michael Scott everytime I try to start another relationship. 'No question about it, I am ready to get hurt again.'"
"Same. We loved each other like siblings, not spouses... Ugh! Lovely man though who now has a fab girlfriend. We are good friends and much happier apart."
"Same. And it f'king sucks, but that’s life. It’s been a year and I still hate every second that she’s not in my life, but at the same time I know she’s happier now than she would’ve been if we stayed together."
Having no communication is the worst part.
"He slowly got distant. I believe he lost interest and didn't dare be honest with me about that."
The Late Blame Game
"I had that happen as well, but then he pinned it on me being distant and not affectionate enough."
"My guy, if you pull your hand away every time I try to hold it, I'm gonna stop trying to hold it. And if I ask if something's up and you repeatedly tell me everything is fine, I'm going to believe you. Don't wait till I'm at my worst moment and then reveal you had issues with me for 3 months and break up with me for it being 'my fault.'"
"Everything Is Fine"
"Oh man, the asking repeatedly and getting a 'nothing' reminds me of a story."
"My friend used to ask her ex this every time he was unusually quiet. He’d always say he was fine, then at one point, told her to stop asking because it was making him feel weird."
"So she did."
"Six months later he initiated a divorce because she didn’t care about his feelings anymore."
"Like…don’t ask for sh*t then get pissy when you get what you want."
And then there are those who were not invested in the relationship for a long time.
The Struggle Is Real
"He seemed to struggle with the concept of not f'king random people."
Leaving The Problem
"He moved to his country because he missed his family. So he only sent a WhatsApp message saying he was going to stay there. I would have preferred a call at least to break up a marriage."
"Something similar happened to my cousin. He married her in the US, they had a baby together.. a few years go by, he misses home, goes back to visit.. His family had an arranged marriage ready for him 🤦🏻♀️ He ended up with a new wife and new baby. Hasn’t came back."
A Foreign Custom
"It just seems so surreal that a grown a** adult with a wife and baby would leave his family behind for an arranged marriage. I'll never fathom the mentality."
"I wasn't having sex near as often as she was."
Breaking up is hard to do.
But a good thing to remember is that love can be found again and the new relationship can be even better than the previous one.
And that's something that can't be recognized until you look back in retrospect.
We all have to kiss a few toads.