Advertising has become such a normal part of my social media experience that I don’t really even notice that it’s there. While I am quite oblivious to the thousands of businesses using social media to draw me in, a lot of my online purchases have been as a result of me clicking on a paid ad that has caught my attention without me thinking twice about how it got in my feed.
This week I decided to take notice of all advertising and paid posts that show up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds that I did not sign up for. The first thing I noticed when I did this was that majority of the ads that I scrolled past were for online clothes shopping. As a prolific online shopper, this did not surprise me but made me feel a little bit uncomfortable as to just how much my everyday online activity was being “watched” without my knowledge.
Seeing how much the advertising on my social media related to my interests and searches outside of these two platforms, also made it abundantly clear that the advertising I am seeing on my social media is specifically targeted at me. To do this social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram use algorithms. Tarleton Gillespie states in his article “Algorithms are not neutral. Algorithms do not function apart from people.” He also goes on to talk about how what we see on Facebook are not based on an unbiased computer creating algorithms as to what people are responding to the most, but it is actually humans doing most of the targeting. This is made clear through the marketing seen on my social media platforms. The ads that show up on my feeds are a result of myself being identified as a target market by a business, this is why the advertising I am exposed to on my social media platforms appeals to me so much and fits seamlessly into my feed.