What Facebook Knows…

About two weeks before my spouse left me, I started noticing a change in the FaceBook ads in my sidebar.  They were advertising for divorce attorneys, plastic surgery, and books for wives who had cheater husbands.  I thought that rather odd and mentioned it off-hand to my spouse.  We shared a laugh about it.

Though I can’t be sure, I think FaceBook knew before I did that my husband was preparing to leave me (or, at least, its advertisers knew when to start targeting me with breakup-related services before I had any idea that I would be in need of them!).  I’ve heard anecdotes that FaceBook can now predict such things, and it’s a bit scary to me–not really because I’m concerned about privacy so much, but I worry that my life is so easy to predict.  Much of this entire divorce business has felt like one huge cliche: husband leaves LDS church, has mid-life crisis, makes deal-breaker choices, etc, etc.  So I wonder what familiar and predictable pattern I’m falling into right now: jilted wife has a boob job, goes traveling to Rome in search of life’s meaning, buys a sportscar, etc, etc. (tho, fwiw, I’m not planning on doing any of those things)…

Do you ever feel that your life is absolutely frighteningly predictable?  Or do you ever wonder if FaceBoook knows more about your life than you do?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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15 Responses

  1. kew says:

    For a while last year Facebook kept recommending I add my ex as a friend, even though we’d broken up five years before and the only thing we had in common was that we both went to BYU. It was very odd.

  2. Rose says:

    Truly, my iPod knows what kind of mood I am in and plays accordingly. It’s been doing this for a few years now. My iPod is such a good friend.

  3. Julia says:

    Had you or your ex changed your relationship status? I used to get tons of “dating sites” ads – until I took the “single” off. Now, I get stuff about television shows or what not based on my interests, but there’s nobody trying to get me to find a child bride from Russia anymore.

  4. Kristen says:

    No, really. How does it do that? I have the least info put into Facebook as possible and 4 completely unrelated friends. Yet somehow it’s always suggesting people I know, but are unconnected to those 4 friends or my email address book, or anything. It’s creepy.

    Ooh! And with 12 hours of signing up, 2 people I didn’t particularly want to find me had sent friend requests.

  5. Jill says:

    I just checked and mine advertises “Kids Birthday Party Place.” I am not married or in a relationship, so I hope that it is not foretelling an indiscretion on my part

  6. aerin says:

    I don’t know what information fb snoops on or not. Hopefully private messages are private, but who can say? I have my birthday on fb, that I’m female and married. I’m a member of a mom’s group – I have so far resisted putting too much information out there about myself. Likes, dislikes, education, etc.

    I have a sponsored link for shoes and a game. I’m sure there is some kind of algorithm/formula to which ads they show for whom. That is where lots of money is, I’m sure. Figuring out as much information as possible about customers or people, and then advertising your wares to them (so they actually want to buy them).

  7. Anita says:

    since i’m getting the same plastic surgery ads, that’s a little frightening 🙂 glad you can find humor in the pain, though–that sounds like a difficult situation. take care.

  8. Ana says:

    The one that makes me laugh is the dating site that’s for geeks only. If I were single they’d have me, I’m sure. Also one time there was an ad trying to sell banjos.

  9. shley says:

    * a little aside here from an IT person.

    The less information you put on Facebook the better. They are constantly developing new “privacy protocols” and that means new ways to share your information. It’s best not to put phone numbers and addresses in your Facebook information. Facebook uses some highly programmed methods to determine what to show to you. You must assume that anything you put on Facebook is not private. Don’t put pictures on Facebook that you wouldn’t want a potential boss or whoever to see. Don’t use “places” that is like asking someone to stalk you.

    A while back I was on a website completely unrelated to Facebook and saw my facebook photos on an ad down in the corner. At the time Facebook was evidently sharing profile information and IP addresses with ad companies so they could target other websites you were on. Once I reset my privacy settings I didn’t have any problem. Facebook knows where you are surfing from all the time as well. They keep the IP addresses where you log on at. There isn’t any way to disable it either. So they know if you log on at home, at work, or on your cell phone.

    So with all these programs Facebook has running and if your privacy settings aren’t set correctly Facebook can do all kinds of things that seem creepy.

    *Check your privacy settings often for new options and settings that have been automatically set to “on” without your knowledge. They won’t ask you before they implement them.

    *Make your password contain lower & upper case letters, numbers, and symbols, be between 7-20 characters long and not a single word, but a phrase or idea.

    *Remember as little personally identifying information as possible. The people who are actually your friends are going to know the things they need to know about you without Facebook.

  10. Stephanie2 says:

    After I have googled something (on google), my yahoo email account shows ads related to it. One time I looked on ebay for lingerie, and my yahoo account wouldn’t stop advertising Victoria’s Secret. Somehow it is all connected.

  11. Daniel says:

    I think the simplest answer is selective observation. When something seems appropriate, we notice. When it doesn’t, we don’t.

    Someone else could be getting the exact same “husband leaving” ads, but if their spouse doesn’t leave, they think nothing of it. (Sorry to hear, by the way.)

    My iPod plays eerily appropriate songs too, but many songs would be appropriate if I thought about them a certain way. And when it picks an ordinary song, I don’t notice.

    But I have noticed that ads are following me around the net, after I visit certain sites. That’s totes real.

  12. X2 Dora says:

    I keep getting ads for dating sites for single millionaires. Not sure if this is supposed to reflect well or poorly on my info … !

  13. JonJon says:

    I’ve heard guys say that Facebook knew they were gay before they did.

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