August 27th, 2014


The Great Facebook Marriage Experiment, Part 4: life as a married man

Ok, so you might remember that as an engaged man*, Facebook showed me a lot of ads for travel, jewellery valuation, television, and thermal underwear. And that horrible one about how my fiance should have her stomach stapled.

We got married on Sunday evening. It was apparently a lovely ceremony, held in Iceland, with flower girls in pink chainmail, UV-reactive sheep, elephants on unicycles, and a whole lot of whiskey with fancy labels that I know nothing about. In fact, I know very little about the wedding at all, because all I did was change my status on Facebook from 'kihloissa' to 'naimisissa'.

But oh, what a change that one little click made. Within 5 minutes, I was getting ads for such exciting things as shopping sprees with the kids at New World*, courses in management, and how to get my business better known through social media. The ads for travel disappeared, apart from a very persistent one that showed my (young, thin, white, blonde) Aspirational Wife shopping like a demon in some unnamed Asian market. What I gather from this if you're a man, once you're married, Things Get Serious. No more frivolous travel for you, it's all about building your business to make money so your family can go shopping!

Can we all say "Gender-normative stereotypes for the loss"? Why yes, yes we can.

But it gets worse.

The ad for stomach stapling that first appeared when I became a man, has upped its game. For those who want to see what being a married man looks like, ad-wise, feast your eyes on this:

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Yep, Facebook is now telling me my wife is fat and needs surgery to look "like you won't believe!" - at least three times a day. I originally thought this ad was only shown to men, but I have a female friend with no relationship status who says she also gets it sometimes. So I'm thinking maybe there's an element of randomness in the mix too.

But did you notice the ad above it? Yes, I can get psychic relationship counselling! Whee! Of course, I never needed relationship counselling, psychic or otherwise, when I was just engaged. Now I'm married it's apparently all downhill.

The other ads I'm seeing a lot of now I've been married for a long time (three days!), are ones that tell me I should shower my wife with jewellery (not the valuation ones from before but full-on "See how these sparkly earrings will look on her lovely lobes" type ones) and health spas. Because now I'm married I have to Provide Luxuries For Her! Also, I should be buying a DVS system to keep my (white, thin, pretty) Aspirational Family warm this winter, getting Sky Sport***, and buying ceiling paint.

From this I conclude that life as a married bloke is all about doing DIY, watching sport and being a provider. And telling my wife to lose weight so she can look like Asia Shopping Lady. I'm actually kind of horrified at this. I mean, I know that these stereotypes exist, but I thought in this day and age they wouldn't be rammed in your face quite so blatantly.

Anyway, my wife and I have decided to give it another few days to see what else the algorithm throws at us****, then get a divorce. I will live as a single man for a week, then I'm going to be a 13 year old girl in Somalia, and see what happens with that. Any suggestions for other demographics I could cover, gratefully accepted.

* Backstory for those who are new - I'm messing around with Facebook's targeted advertising algorithm by changing my relationship status and gender, to see what assumptions are made about people's consumer desires based on these factors. I haven't filled out any interests at all, so hopefully what I'm getting is pretty generic and therefore not confounded by my own nature.
** NZ supermarket chain
*** Dedicated pay TV channel that shows rugby a lot I think (according to the ads)
**** My wife has not had quite such obviously stereotypical ads, but she's been fiddling with the interests and friend-likes to see what that does to hers, so it's a bit different from mine.