Monday, June 23, 2014

Nowhere to Hide

It started with an ad for Depends that was popping up everywhere and following me all over the internet. Personally, I rarely notice advertising, whether it dances on the edge of my news articles, or wedges itself boldly between the paragraphs, or even when it hijacks the entire page and forces me to click on the 'x' to close it, but this one caught my eye. I couldn't decide if I was annoyed or amused, but I was definitely curious.

What kind of demented algorithm had determined I was a candidate for Depends?

While I was pondering that question, ads for single men in their 50's started popping up. Yes, I am in my fifties (which isn't hard to figure out, since my state sells my voting information and my birthdate is right out there in plain sight), but I'm happily married and have never given anyone cause to suspect otherwise. It made me wonder if my husband was being bombarded with ads for single women in their fifties or worse yet, given society's double standards, single women in their thirties. But when the ads for 'plus-size flirty dresses' came along, I got mad. Look, I could stand to lose ten or twelve pounds but, seriously, this was too much.

Still, I knew it wasn't personal--how could it be? After I'd researched boarding schools for a story I was writing, I was bombarded with ads asking, "Do you have a troubled teen?", and offering suggestions for where to send my problem child. And when I visited the website of a pool builder, let's call it 'Joe's Pools', ads began to pop up so frequently that I finally called them and begged them to stop hounding me. The owner was quite apologetic and explained that he had paid someone a lot of money to 'get his name out there', but that it wasn't his intention to "haunt people's dreams" as I’d put it.

I know that everyone has overhead and that advertising pays the bills, but let's get one thing straight; my biggest purchases involve buying books and dining out. In other words, you guys are wasting your valuable advertising dollars on the likes of me. I remember reading George Orwell's "1984" in middle school and cringing at the idea of advertising so ubiquitous that there was no escaping it—even your pillowcase would flash toothpaste ads. Well, I'm ready for that pillowcase now. And once I post this essay online, I'm sure ads will pop up for pillowcases, linens, comforters and mattresses, in every size, color, and price range imaginable. I can hardly wait.

Since I can’t do anything to stop the deluge, I will do my best to ignore it. I am still optimistic that one day an ad will pop up for a product or service I actually need; I don’t want to be a freeloader, getting my news for free and not buying a damn thing. When that happens, I promise you I will order whatever it is immediately and without hesitation. But honestly, I hope it's not Depends…

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