August 7th, 2014


The great Facebook marriage experiment, part 1

Last night I got married. On Facebook. To tieke (not, as Dr Wheel suggested, a chiselled foundry worker who looks like Jonathan Rhys-Myers).

I did it because yesterday I noticed that the ads up the side of the page were following a theme or two. They were trying to sell me adventure holidays, Irritable Bowel Syndrome support groups, and Single Men Over 40 Waiting For You! To which I went "Hmm, Facebook has a very strange idea of what sort of person I am."

Naturally, I got curious about whether they'd continue to show me the Single Men if I were married. So I got married. And being curious whether Facebook would recognise a same sex marriage, I proposed to tieke. Turns out that FB does recognise same sex marriage. Next up, does Facebook recognise poly marriages? To find out, I've now also proposed to Dr Wheel.

So anyway, it seems that since I got married, Facebook is now trying to sell me mostly travel (now to New Plymouth instead of Adventure Locations*), plastic surgery, endometriosis support groups, and children's clothing. Within 10 minutes of getting married I got an ad exhorting me to "Get Rid Of Your Mummy Tummy!" - to which I was all "Wow, that was fast!" And in the pictures in the ads, my kids (two of them) are now about 5 and 7.

Meanwhile, my wife is clearly the breadwinner - she's currently getting ads for iPhone covers, business cards, coffee, and credit. I fear this will change her..

Also, I'm amused by the way that when I talk publicly about Facebook ads, I get at least two people informing me about AdBlock. I do actually know about AdBlock, but I choose not to use it because I'm interested in the ads from a sociological perspective, and also amused by them. My partner is an AI geek, remember, and works with machine learning amongst other things. So targeted advertising is a source of interest and amusement, in comparing what the software thinks I'll be interested in vs what I'm actually interested in, and how much of a reflection of a person's online persona these things really are. It is also pretty funny.

I get a similar thing when I talk about reading the comments. There's always someone who says "Don't read the comments!" as if this is a bestowed wisdom that all people should be enlightened by.

Confession time: I *like* reading the comments. Yes, sometimes they piss me off, but again they have academic value for me as a student of sociology - especially one who's interested in changing the opinion of the masses about a polarising topic. Knowing what the opinion of the masses is and how it will be expressed in its most raw form, is something that has value for me. And also, there is often comedy gold in the comments. If I were to take the advice of the well-meaning internet people who tell me I shouldn't read the comments, my life would be less rich, and I'd be less educated and less entertained.

Some people would say that ads and internet comments don't add much to the richness of life, and that's fine, for them. Me, I like that stuff. I am not above it, in fact I deliberately choose to experience it, even though AdBlock has existed for years and "Don't read the comments" is in every thread that mentions the comments ever. Because I'm contrary like that.

* Please correct me if you've been to New Plymouth and it is actually an adventure location.