Sunday May 21, 2017

The past is painful enough without targeted ads to remind you

Journalist Kari Paul was frequently targeted with depression-related ads on Facebook

Journalist Kari Paul was frequently targeted with depression-related ads on Facebook

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Targeted ads online are nothing new, but they can still feel insidious at times.

You message a friend about an upcoming camping trip, and suddenly ads for outdoor gear start popping up.

Or you do a harmless search about a cool pair of sneakers you saw, and now wherever you go online, it's like those sneakers are following you!

Kari Paul

Kari Paul.

And on social media platforms, it's no different. But sometimes the adds are laughably off target.

But what if the kind of ads aimed at you aren't actually funny at all?

Kari Paul is a personal finance reporter for Marketwatch. Recently, she wrote a piece for Vice that wasn't about finance at all.

Instead, it was her story about how Facebook and Instagram constantly remind her that she's had to deal with depression for much of her life.

"It's something I've always struggled with, and have come to terms with as I've gotten help." she says.

But although she is managing it, she found that on Facebook and Instagram, she was frequently bombarded by ads about depression.

At first the ads were somewhat generic -- meditation apps and talk-therapy apps for depression and anxiety.

But then she started to get of ads about bipolar disorder.

"The ads were very pointed," she says "And kind of alarming and contrary to what my actual trained psychiatrist was telling me about my own diagnosis. So it was causing some confusion."

 "Even seeing out of the corner of your eye, a little ad telling you you're depressed surely has an effect on your mental state and your progress." - Kari Paul

Kari even went off Facebook for several years. But she argues that shouldn't be the solution.

"Why doesn't Facebook just make it's products better instead of people having to quit it?"

Since her story was published, Kari has noticed that the kinds of ads targeted to her have changed and are considerably "less alarming." She jokes that she now mostly gets ads for face masks and purses.


How have targeted ads affected you?

Have you experienced targeted ads that make you uncomfortable or see way off the mark? Share your stories in the comments section below.