Monday, September 10, 2012

When Big Brother looks past stereotypes, then maybe I'll start to worry

I have heard and read much concerned discussion of popular web organizations such as Google and Facebook having excessive access to our personal information and insufficient regard for our privacy. I've heard unhappy and nearly paranoid descriptions of the "hundreds of pages" of data supposedly stored by Facebook to convince marketers that it is successfully targeting their ads to potential customers.

Well, I am here to tell you that their algorithms are wrong. In my experience, they rely too heavily on tired stereotypes that simply do not represent reality. If this is any indication of how the computers of Big Brother are gathering, prioritizing, and interpreting data about us, we have nothing about which to worry.

For example, did you know that single women over twenty-five want to get married!? Even if they're not engaged!!!! Even if they don't have a significant other! Ads for engagement rings or pre-engagement rings started popping up on my Facebook when I was around twenty-five, and not only uninterested in marriage but also militantly opposed (for reasons that don't belong in this post) to engagement rings.

Other than that, it was mostly ads for ModCloth.com and that Shoe of the Month club that has to do with some celebrity--a Kardashian, maybe? Because all women want is clothing and shoes.

But it was when I changed my relationship status to "Engaged" that things really got crazy. And in some cases offensive! In others, just puzzling.

In the past six months, based on the ads it has most persistently shown me, Facebook has thought I am:

* Interested in gaudy rings

* Interested in developing and maintaining a negative self-image in relation to my upcoming wedding day: weight loss, magic diets, weight loss drugs, weight loss plans, exercise for the purpose of weight loss, bridal tanning packages because only my dress should be white!, teeth whitening (oh yeah, those should be white, too!), and laser hair removal. Hey Facebook, haven't you noticed my "Like"ing of things like Bitch Media!?!?!?!?

When I started to flag these as "offensive," for about one day, Facebook retaliated by flooding me with ads for plus-size fashion.


* Jewish

* Also, Jewish and marrying a non-Jew. Facebook thinks my interfaith wedding needs a rabbi.

* A Republican. I keep getting ads suggesting I "Like" Paul Ryan. Again, Facebook, are you paying any attention? Look at my "Like"'s. Feminist and marriage equality organizations. Social conservative I am not. It's PRETTY OBVIOUS.

* Interested in another bachelor's degree. HELLO FACEBOOK I HAVE TWO ALREADY.

A new strange twist is that within the past month, Facebook decided I was pregnant. I started to see ads for diapers, children's clothing, baby toys, and birthing centers.

After clicking, "Uninteresting" to a few of these, Facebook seemed sure of the reason behind my actions.

Facebook switched to showing me ads for open adoption services. Not to adopt, but to give up my (nonexistent) unborn child for adoption.

I miss the good old days of "Pinecones Under Glass." Like they used to say, "The want is real."

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