The Ad Who Knew Too Much

Do you remember when I mentioned being targeted with Facebook ads?  I know I’m not the only one that this happens too. It’s an ongoing initiative by “big brother” to monetize their surveillance efforts.  But now, Facebook algorithms are aware of just how intrusive their shadowy observations have become. And it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s worrisome to say the least.

An ad popped up on my Facebook feed – I don’t remember what it was for now, admittedly, my brain is a sieve… but as my fellow Facebook users will know, you can click on an ad and “hide” it so that you won’t be bothered with that vendor again in the future.  Well. When I clicked to do just that, the below message appeared, a new variant on the choices I’m always given when I do decide to hide an ad.

Note the “too personal” option. That was never there before. At least not since the last time I tried to hide an ad. Too personal.  Hmmm… you mean, too personal as in you secretly recorded my offline conversations and decided to use that information in the form of an insidious marketing ploy? Or too personal as in, you thought I might like a ball gag and handcuffs but suddenly realized that perhaps that was too personal of an offer to make?

What really has me concerned though, is the very new-to-me “knows too much” option. Do you see that? Are you as worried as I am?  Knows too much. What the hell does that mean?  Is that a sly admission to the whole “hey, we’re listening in to your offline interactions but don’t really want you to know that, and it’s just your imagination anyway — ha ha” scheme they’ve got going on? I think it is. I mean, what else could it be?  It’s not like it was an ad for a full set of encyclopedias, in which case, sure, yeah, maybe the “knows too much” would factor in.

No. This has to be Facebook messing with their users. Which begs the question, what kind of game are you playing over there Facebook? Knows too much, indeed.

 

The Faults of Facebook

So, here lately, I’ve been thinking about Facebook and social media in general.  While an amazing feat of modern technology that allows news to spread in the blink of an eye, social media also has its pitfalls. There’s the obvious cyber-bullying issue… that’s too great of an issue to discuss in one blog entry. But there is something more insidious at work here. People get lost down the rabbit hole of social media never to return. My ex was – and remains – mired in the faux-emotional muck that is Facebook. The 5,000 close friends, the groups, the pages touting the benefits of the radical survivalist communes you long for (you know, as one does), all of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my daily foray into Facebookland as much as the next person. It’s just that so many people are on Facebook and other social media, spending their time trying to impress (aka convince) an online audience that their life is perfect… to get the attention, the validation, and the “approval” they think they deserve.  Many of these rabbit hole divers have family or spouses or significant others at home who would love to be a part of that perfect life portrayed online, but are ignored … because, Facebook.

Some people use Facebook as a time-killer (that would be yours truly), but others live on it as a reality-killer. Or rather, a reality enhancer. It just boggles the mind, truth be told.

Generally speaking, Facebook posters fall into several broad categories.  We all know at least one from each.

The meme sharer:  Also reposts lost pet photos.  This is the person who has such a mixture of friends on Facebook that posting anything at all personally will offend at least a third of them, so they play it safe and post generic memes.  I would … ahem … likely fall into this category. I save my demented mental-meanderings for you, lovely readers!

The vague status: “I can’t believe it.  I’m so heartbroken.”  This generates a flurry of concerned responses from people far and wide, to which the next status update is “Thanks for all the concern, I’m so touched.  I just don’t want to talk about it.”  The obvious question would be, if you didn’t want to talk about it, why the hell did you post anything at all?

The perpetually sick person:  This is the person who posts every sniffle, papercut, broken fingernail or stomach cramp for the world to see.  And no matter how inane the medical “issue,” the support is overwhelming.  “Unreal. I have a hangnail (picture of offending hangnail covered under eight layers of bandages).  And the comments roll in. “Oh, no! (sad emoji) Feel better soon!” “I’m so sorry! (sad emoji) I hope it clears up soon!”

The knower of a perpetually sick person:  “Prayers, please.  My friend has a hangnail.  It doesn’t look good (sad emoji).”

The offender:  Posts deliberately annoying and offensive comments just to get notifications on his phone.  “Clean air is stupid.” “Drinkable water is overrated.” At some point, this person will be placed in Facebook Jail for a week, unable to post, and then brag about it when he comes back.

The sharer of fake news:  No matter what your political beliefs are, fake news abounds.  The sharer of fake news will defend the most ridiculous and unsearched “news stories” as truth.  “Aliens landed in downtown Hollywood today and while wearing kilts and playing kazoos, they spirited away Grauman’s Chinese Theater! The. Entire. Theater. No, really, it’s true!”  Eventually someone will blow her out of the water with the definitive Snopes judgment, and then the circle begins anew as everyone debates whether Snopes is actually impartial.

Perpetual Optimist:  Just wrecked my car, but I saved my fuzzy dice! Life is GREAT!

Perpetual Pessimist:  Just won the lottery.  Great big gobs of money.  Life stinks.

The new reality for many is that social media has become their fountain of validation. They prefer the adulation of hundreds of friends acquaintances people they barely know to the love of their own family. I mean, really, with untold hours spent connected to the internet perfecting their online persona, who has time for loved ones?

I would say more on this, but I gotta go. My notifications just went off and it looks like my friend’s dog’s mother’s uncle has a sprained pinky toe. Boy, I sure hope he feels better soon.  (Sad emoji)

Queen of the Road

I know I just wrote about RVs recently and it’s not exactly a topic to expand on, but here we are, expanding. Why, you ask? Well, because apparently Facebook overheard our conversation or caught me “thinking” about RVs and decided to throw a gazillion ads at me to show me the life I’ve been missing.  I’m still not sure how Facebook manages to get inside my head, but that’s a topic for another day.

I will admit, some of the ads for tricked-out RV homes sort of reinforced the crazy notion of quitting the 9 to 5 life and hitting the road.  I can see why people would choose the open road, permanently. Obviously, this isn’t my first or even best dream. But hey, If I can’t pull up stakes and move to Ireland, then I wouldn’t mind travelling America’s highways like Jack Kerouac.

What’s my plan, you ask? Why, purchasing one of the exorbitantly priced, grand motor homes Facebook, in all of its algorithmic wisdom, felt I was qualified for (both mentally and financially, presumably, which just goes to show, Facebook is stupid).

If I’m going on the ultimate road trip, you’d better believe I’m going to do it in style… and in such a luxurious manner that the locals will ask, “Who was that woman?” whenever I pass through their town. Yeah, sure, that’s what they’ll say. What they won’t be saying is, “Who was that annoying tourist with the obnoxious, oversized RV who took up 50 parking spots at the Piggly Wiggly!?”

I’ve done a lot of research (insofar as I skimmed the ads Facebook so kindly showed me) and have decided on the motor home that will fit my personality … which, knowing how my personality changes from day to day, came down to either a Chinook pop-up tent mounted on the back of a scuffed-up 1998 Ford Ranger, OR a completely pimped-out 29-ton, 45-foot-long, 600 HP, 732 square foot hunka hunka burnin’ love called the EleMMent Palazzo Superior. It looks like a brick-shaped Cyclops coming at you at 80mph. Awesome, right!?

Photos from Marchi Motors, Vienna, Austria

Of course, it will have a few of the creature comforts to which I feel entitled. At least two 42” flat screen TVs, a waterfall shower, a king size bed, 800-gallon fresh water tank, at least one bar, and oh, global Wi-Fi (the importance of which, I believe I’ve mentioned before).  Heated floors?  Yes, please. The 732 square foot interior seems a little small, but since the master bedroom is separate from the rest of the coach, I could, in theory, accommodate five “overnighters.” Get your minds out of the gutter… I’m talking book club, here!

I plan on adding some of my own, small personal touches … as you can see here. I mean, after all, this will be my new home!

Photos from Marchi Motors, Vienna, Austria

Another feature that caused me to fall in love with this behemoth is the nifty little sky lounge that emerges, with the touch of a button, on the roof. How cool is that!?

Photos from Marchi Motors, Vienna, Austria

The Sky Lounge will also have a bar (okay, so if you’re keeping track, that’s two bars) and a fireplace. In case I want to pass out while taking in the sights, the couches can be used as beds, because of course they can.

Okay, okay, I know what some of you are thinking:

  • That thing costs about $3,000,000, and…

Yep, that’s it. That thing is amazingly, ridiculously, laughably expensive. No kidding, the starting price sits at $3,000,000.

Why on earth any advertising algorithm in their right mind would target me for this is beyond understanding.

I’ve got it handled, though, just so you know. I plan on winning the next Mega-Millions Lottery. I had a dream last night that showed me the numbers, so I’m putting all my money into tickets. I’m sure to win – I mean, this is my well thought out retirement plan, it can’t fail, right?

I Have a Great Attention…Look, a Puppy!

Facebook, in its ever evolving need to placate everyone, has implemented a service to help busy Facebook users better manage their time.  You may have noticed that under each article or video, Facebook has added a handy dandy estimate of how much time it will take their oh-so-busy users to read an article.

I won’t even touch on the fact that many Facebook users don’t (or can’t) read an informative article to begin with.

I will even ignore the fact that I can read a 300-word piece in well under 5 minutes, Mr.  Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s cut right to the chase, shall we?  If you are on Facebook for the twentieth fiftieth gazillionth time today, explain to me exactly what tight, rigorous schedule you are on that prevents you from choosing to read a five-minute article?

“Wow, teens exploring a wooded area next to the local mall downtown discovered a live wooly mammoth family today in New Hampshire! Oh wait, it’s a 5-minute read!? Who the hell has time for that??”  *Keeps scrolling* … “Coke adds the name Adonis to its line of labeled bottles and cans … 2-minute read. All right! Now, that’s the kind of timeframe I can get behind! Let me at this one!”

If it takes you more than five minutes to read the article, can you sue for lost time and damages?  Does that five-minute read include pictures and captions?  Really, Facebook, I have so many questions!

I suppose you could time your Farmville crops to article lengths and give yourself something to do while the crops ripen.  “This one will take exactly one corn harvest.”    “Oh, man, I’ll never get to harvest those yams in time if I read this one, forget it.  Who cares about the newly discovered pyramid on Mars, anyway?  Those crops are waiting!”

Now, what happens if I choose to invest my time in, say, a five-minute article and it only takes me three minutes to read?  I have two extra unplanned minutes in my day.  I could:

  • Post a vague, slightly disturbing update in the hopes it will gain attention from my friends.
  • Read someone’s political beliefs and become angry … not by the post, but by all the comments under it (although I may not have time to post a reply to any of the more egregious statements).
  • Share eight lost dog posts or three Minions memes.
  • Place four posts that I will never look at again in my “saved” folder.
  • Like three posts by accident when swiping up. These will include a friend’s dad’s funeral, someone who broke both legs falling down a flight of steps, and someone’s cat being run over by a bus.
  • Type out a well thought out rebuttal to someone’s post, then spend the next two and a half minutes trying to figure out how to delete it while frantically realizing that I am now over my allotted time limit.
  • Accidentally click on an ad for hemorrhoid cream and watch my page fill with ads for hemorrhoid creams.
  • Try to understand why a video about cake icing has been “covered because it may contain gore.” Uncover it.  Watch in amazement as someone falls into a vat of frosting and is iced.
  • Wish happy birthday to three “friends” I have never met in my life.
  • Search for a two-minute article. Find it, then realize it has taken me two minutes to find so I don’t actually have time to read it.

Years from now we’ll be telling our grandchildren, “In my day, we had phones that plugged into the wall, TV sets without remotes, and we never knew how long it would take to read an article on Facebook!”

So, my followers and friends…what will YOU do with all of your extra time?

Big Brother is watching … No, really, he is

I’ve read the memes and I’ve heard the jokes about “big brother” and how he is ever vigilant in watching what everyone does. However, I’ve never really experienced it until this week. Oh, sure, I’ve been known to look at “must haves” on Amazon or Etsy and then suddenly, up pops an ad for the very same thing on my Facebook feed. I think everyone who spends any amount of time online has faced that disturbing scenario.  But … to ramp up the surreal nature of targeted ads, not to mention creep factor, “big brother” upped the ante this week.

My daughter and I were talking … TALKING … about mochi ice-cream (a yummy Japanese ice cream confection made with a traditional mochi outer-layer) in the grocery store as we stood in front of the refrigerated section staring at said product. I’ll admit, we discussed the topic at length, comparing flavors, deciding which was our favorite from past forays into the mochi dessert menus at various Japanese steakhouses, and waffling back and forth as to whether we should buy some now. Not being telepathic, our conversations were verbal. I know that may seem like an odd distinction to make, but it’s important for me that you know that, because I’m convinced it plays into what happened next.

Our phones were off as they dwelled deep within our pockets … there wasn’t a computer to be seen … I didn’t catch sight of a grocery clerk with a clipboard taking notes or a men-in-black representative lurking about, yet the next day, what pops up on my Facebook feed? You guessed it. An ad for mochi ice-cream. And not just ANY mochi ice cream – but the very same brand and two flavors we were looking at in the grocery store.

You tell me. WTF?

 

Into the Fray

I belong to several different online groups, especially on Facebook. They’re mostly book clubs, classic movie fan sites, and vintage photo connoisseurs. I’ve noticed that, especially in one of the vintage photography groups, people are becoming unnecessarily mean and argumentative. In this group, anyone can post pictures of anything vintage, whether it’s their family, celebrities, locations, etc. Someone posted a photo of Doc Holliday and “Big Nose Kate,” his girlfriend/wife, and there were people – you’d think it would be just men, but women as well – who jumped in to immediately say how much Kate looked like a man in a dress (she didn’t) and of course the comments spiraled out of control from there. Good grief! This Hungarian-born, frontier woman has been dead for 77 years. Let it rest.

In the same group, a controversial photo of Billy the Kid was displayed. It’s been authenticated, but some historians still have their doubts, which I won’t get into here. Still, it was as if some of the group’s members had been personally attacked or offended or perhaps had some vested interest in the origins of this photo for all the rage and insulting comments they were throwing out…directed at the photo, the original poster, as well as to those who mentioned, correctly I might add, that the photo had indeed been authenticated and even insured, controversy within the industry notwithstanding.  Nothing is as irksome as self-appointed vintage photo police.

Photos will be posted of family members and people will scream “Photoshop!” even though the photo is obviously old and photoshopping didn’t exist then. While it’s possible the photo was manipulated in the dark room all those 100’s of years ago, who the hell cares?  In any case, it’s the person’s family, so they would probably know if it was accurate or not. People will post old Victorian spirit pictures (which are well-known to be faked) and the commenters jump on those too – screaming, “fake, fake, fake!” As if no-one else had any idea and they are exposing some modern-day fraud. These Visual Vigilantes attack the original poster and anyone else who voices a positive opinion of simply liking the photo or thinking that it’s “cool,” or complimenting the dark-room work, regardless of whether it’s real or not.

Now I know the Internet, and Facebook in particular, is a breeding ground for arguments, but it has become increasingly apparent to me that people will indeed argue about anything and everything. However, it’s amazing to me that in a group that is supposed to be all about simple, innocuous, and light-hearted fun, there are those who cannot contain themselves. It’s as if they MUST be hateful, mean, and argumentative – as if they’ll implode otherwise, by containing all of that vile vitriol…like pressure-cookers left unattended. Or would they explode? Either way, it would be a big mess.

What is wrong with people that they can’t seem to find enjoyment in anything?  Perhaps arguing and being hateful are their forms of enjoyment? If so, our society is going to hell a lot faster than I originally anticipated.

 

 

Who let the dogs out?

I’m sure you all have counted yourselves quite blessed here of late that I haven’t been in so much of a rant-y mood. This lackadaisical attitude was due to a recent attempt of mine to avoid the specific issues that bother me so as not to require the overabundance of Bailey’s Irish Cream it so often takes to get over the stress brought about by these unpleasant topics.

But now I need to return to this outlet for some of my more soap-box inspired ramblings, so the rant-free streak ends today as I grace you all with the following!  Lucky you!  Plus, I like Bailey’s.

Many years ago there was a sitcom called Frasier, starring Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce. It’s still quite popular today in reruns (I watch it myself on the Hallmark Channel late at night), which is why I’m sure that many of you will have seen an episode in which Frasier is supposed to sing a difficult opera aria for a PBS telethon.

He changes his mind at the last-minute, because as he claims “it may be an unwise man who doesn’t learn from his own mistakes, but it’s an absolute idiot that doesn’t learn from other peoples’!”

With that as a preamble, let me tell this little story. (Ha! You thought I’d changed my mind, didn’t you!?)

There is a person I know (however well you can know someone you only “follow” on Facebook).  They live on a large-ish property on a main road that seems to get a lot of traffic. They have horses and to keep the horses safe, they keep them behind fences. Smart move, right? Yeah, I agree. However, the main part of the property isn’t fenced as it’s apparently inconvenient for moving the horses around and general day-to-day life.

Now, these folks keep getting dogs – both to keep and presumably foster.

In fact, not a month goes by that this person doesn’t post an announcement on Facebook about the sad fate of the dogs they keep getting.

They lost two last April.

A Corgi was run over by a semi – but, according to the post, it was the dog’s fault for chasing the truck. Semi vs Corgi…you can imagine how that ended up.

A Pomeranian mix was run over by a school bus – but that was the dog’s fault for not getting out of the way.  I guess the little bugger just couldn’t out-maneuver a bus. I mean, really…what was he thinking?

The month of May saw another victim of the road and a tragic blurb was duly posted on Facebook.

That time it was a Border-Collie mix that was run over by a car. I’m sure that was also the dog’s fault – although they didn’t post any details except to simply say that yet another one of their dogs bit the dust.

Another poor soul was lost in June. This time they didn’t even bother to mention the breed of the dog. All the post said was they thought it had been hit by a car (imagine that!) because its body had been found in a ditch on the side of the road.

The end of July saw yet another tragedy when a Cocker-mix lost a fight with a pick-up truck. I guess this family just attracts dogs that like to battle fast-moving vehicles. The Don Quixotes of the canine world I suppose.

I read with sadness that they “lost” another dog in August. It was a Pekingese. They didn’t even realize it was missing at first. When they finally noticed, they went to look for it and found it dead on the side of road, likely another victim of the ongoing traffic that flows right outside their unprotected property line.

September was blessed in that all survived or at least, there was nothing posted one way or the other. However, October saw a similar canine eulogy but details on breed and specific demise were less forthcoming.

So, they keep “losing” all these dogs. Although, it’s not really “losing” them is it? They know damn well where they’re going. It’s not like they’re “lost” in the true sense of the word.

Anyone who has ever seen The Importance of Being Earnest is familiar with Lady Bracknell’s sarcastic witticism, “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness.”

I’d have to say that to lose one dog to a vehicle can be regarded as a misfortune…to lose any more than that seems to me to be more deliberately negligent than careless.

I mean, we’ve all heard the classic definition of insanity, right – to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result? I mean, what is wrong with these people?  Did they not think after the first dog that perhaps a fenced-in-area might be nice?  What about after the third or fourth?

Well, according to one of their most recent comments, they’ve “thought for a while” about an electric, underground fence but they’re expensive, and other conventional types of fencing, such as chain link, are simply too inconvenient for their lifestyle.

So now I’m wondering how many were “lost” prior to me following their Facebook page? These are just the ones that I saw described during my short duration as a “follower” (I ended the twisted voyeurism in early November…but maybe I need to check back in to catch up).  Perhaps this is an ongoing thing with no sign of stopping. Or maybe they just had a run of some seriously horrific luck. Only time will tell.

And what about the shelter people?  Or whoever it is that’s giving them these dogs. Do they not wonder what’s going on that dogs keep disappearing at such an alarming rate and more are being requested?  If you ask what happened to the previous dog (or two or three or four) and you learn that it was hit by a car or a truck or a bus, wouldn’t “you need to have a fence installed” be a no-brainer prerequisite to adopting or fostering another dog?

It’s horrible to lose a pet, it truly is, and my heart goes out to anyone who has the tragic misfortune to lose a four-legged member of their family.  But when you take in a dog or cat or any animal, you hold that life in your hands and you need to take responsibility for it. And if you know that the highway next to your house is a serious danger zone, you put up a protective barrier or take other precautions to keep your pets (or fosters) safe.  You don’t just tick off your losses on Facebook and leave it at that.