Facebook’s spiffy artificial intelligence algorithms are sold to authors as the way to market books. Through the magic of surgical audience targeting, only those people panting for an HEA/duke book/holiday novella/dystopian shifter erotic Amish dinosaur menage romance will see the ad, and golly Ned, they are going click on that thing like frosting on a cupcake.
I question the precision of that targeting. Facebook shows me–for the most part–two kinds of ads.
The first category of ad, which I see most frequently, is for fat lady underwear (or old lady underwear, designed by a 70-year-old grandma to hold up what needs holding up!). The message is blatant: You are saggy, fat, bulgy and not OK the way you are, but if you buy this magic pair of skivvies you will be able to hide your flaws.
Don’t get me started on the whole hopeless, lying psychology of consumerism.
The second category of ad, which makes me question whether higher primates had any hand in the design of the FB algorithm, is for diet-oriented meal delivery services. If there is one service I hope to never, ever, ever, ever avail myself of, it’s a diet meal delivery service.
I use a browser extension called Facebook Container and an ad tracker/blocker called Ghostery. In theory, FB doesn’t know all that much about what I get up to on the internet. I suspect these ads are the default ads for my age, gender, and stage, but still…
For many people, meal delivery services are life savers. Part of the problem for me is that people in my immediate family have eating disorders. Somebody (usually female) dies of an eating disorder in this country every 52 minutes, and as mental health diagnoses go, only an opioid addiction carries a greater risk of death. Nearly one in ten of us will suffer an eating disorder at some point in our lives, and those stupid ads–whether they are flashing chubby ta-tas in lavender lace or skinny people rhapsodizing about egg-free mushroom quinoa watercress quiche–are triggering as heck.
There’s another reason I get so bent out of shape about the meal delivery ads FB bombards me with. When I’m having a particularly hard-starting morning, I will make a cup of the International black breakfast tea my sister picked up for me in Williamsburg. I avoid caffeine generally, so this is a last resort, and it also calls to mind my sister’s thoughtfulness. That John Kelly fudge from my niece is another way to convey love.
Food means more to me than shoving some calories in my face so I won’t be hungry. It means connections, history, culture, pleasure, and in some ways as is intimate and personal as a favorite nightie. I don’t make a big deal out of meals and cooking, but I’m still aware of what I eat, and what a privilege it is to eat what I want, when I want it.
I want FB to stop hijacking what should be a social experience to paw with particular crudeness at my privacy. I know–too late for that Grace–but it helps me to understand why I am so howlingly offended by the algorithm’s misfire in my case.
Are there ads that drive you nuts? Ads you actually enjoy seeing? (Why doesn’t Facebook show me adds for horses and garden flowers?) No give away this week, but I will donate some funds to my state food bank. (Don’t tell Facebook.)