Those Ads

Reading the other day, I came across this article on Slate about ad algorithms, grief, and social media (TW for stillbirth).  Basically, it explores the phenomenon where, post loss, people are still bombarded with ads for baby or pregnancy items when they go online.  It also has the FB shortcut to hide some of these ads but less advice about the vexing problem of FB’s tendency to “celebrate” anniversaries of particular posts.

When it happened to me, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who had it occurring.  I can vividly remember getting baby ads after my first miscarriage because I’d spent time looking up pregnancy-related websites.  It sucked, especially in those first few days after arriving home from the hospital post D&C when I was physically and emotionally achy.

My second loss was a little less problematic in terms of the ads – mostly because I had known something was wrong from the start and my searching had been confined to things like “ectopic pregnancy symptoms” and “really low beta HcG” and “pregnant but bleeding”.

The one that really wrecked me, however, was after E’s birth at 28w4d when I kept getting ads for maternity clothes while she was in the NICU.

The Slate article goes on to talk about why there aren’t better algorithms to prevent these triggering ads: “The real problem is that there’s no quick capitalistic incentive for Face.book to do the work of sorting ads or pictures for you.  As one grieving woman told the Australian website…’There’s no money in miscarriages, obviously.’”

Having walked through infertility and miscarriage, I can’t help but think, as do the women featured in the article, that there really does have to be a better way.

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5 thoughts on “Those Ads

  1. I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, yes, it would be lovely if sites made it easier to opt out of ads on certain topics, etc. BUT Facebook is a free service that earns its money through ads. This is the nature of free services where our information and content is the product. If Facebook offered people a paid, ad-free version, would they take it? I think we can make demands about security, about misuse of our information, etc. But I feel greyer about making demands on the ads served when there are options to tailor them; it’s just that the burden is on the user.

    1. I hear this, definitely, and understand how FB (and similar) make their money through the ads. That being said – is it effective for advertisers to be advertising their stuff to people who no longer want/need it? I liked the suggestion in the article that key words like “stillbirth” or “miscarriage” would trigger a stop to baby-related ads. I’m pretty sure that FB and such would have made a good bit more money at that point if they’d started targeting me with self-care products, etc. So I think there’s a way to do both.

  2. Emma

    I can see why the ads can be upsetting. I had a MMC at 9 weeks with DNC and I’m sure there were still loads of ads coming to me afterwards. But I do not support the idea that people who have suffered a traumatic event should be protected from anything upsetting at all costs. It’s not possible to avoid triggers unless you do not leave your house or engage with society. There are pregnant women and baby clothes everywhere, kids, etc. I think it’s better to support each other to face the grief head on, be more open about it and allow ourselves to be upset by things we see. I think that’s how you heal, rather than trying to clense your world of anything that reminds you of the loss. Just one perspective.

    1. I hear that as well. Definitely triggers aren’t avoidable out in public. What bothered me was to log on for something completely unrelated and not seem to be able to shake the ads – for weeks. It was more that those were times I would have preferred not to be thinking about stuff (I mean, it was things like news that I was looking for – I’d kind of hoped to think about…something else for a little while). But I do understand that it’s not possible to avoid things while out in the “real world” for sure. And I think support is an absolutely vital part of healing.

  3. I would love to have more control over my ads. Right now, most of my ads are for clothing (Modcloth), underwear (Shapermint and ThirdLove bras), and housewares (Pottery Barn, Wayfair). But it really, really sucked to keep getting ads for baby stuff, or parenting stuff, or infertility clinic stuff when we were at the end of treatments, at the end of adoption, and in the first year after resolving childfree. I like your point above that the ads won’t work if you’re not going to buy anything, so a better algorithm would work for everyone. I have bought a number of things from ads on Facebook, so I am a great ad-viewer because I actually buy crap. But I bought NOT A THING from ads for baby clothes, nursing wear, infertility clinics, maternity clothes, etc. There should be a screening thingie for what you are interested in, because a good ad is a targeted ad. I did find that when I left groups for adoption and infertility on facebook some of my ads changed. Funny, I never got ads for things meant for childfree people, huh. 🙂

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