I may not be the most savvy or technologically oriented person, but I recently have noticed something creepy going on with my computer. It seems to me that, after I visit a website for research or shopping purposes, all of the ads on the margins of my page feature those items. Real or imagined, it has been very unsettling on more than one occasion.
The first time I noticed it, I had been looking at a scrapbooking website. The next time I logged on, I had Groupon deals in my inbox for scrapbooking vacations and margin ads for paper and paper-crafting items that were on sale. I believe some were even touted as the “sale of a lifetime.”
While a bit disconcerting, I convinced myself that it was a fluke. I do so little online shopping, it hardly seemed like a worthwhile endeavor to tailor my ads towards things that I might buy. But it became a little more difficult to convince myself of it after I began researching some things about alpacas for an article I was writing.
The sideline ads changed to reflect my new love of all things camelid. Breeders, equipment for raising them, where to buy fiber and products made from the fiber all were offered to me at the click of the mouse. I may have even been offered a “sale of a lifetime” on the purchase of a cria (which I had discovered during said research is a baby alpaca.) It was perplexing.
More recently, I was looking for canning supplies online. Shortly thereafter, I began to see ads for Meals Ready to Eat, water purification kits and other things to put in my underground bunker. Somehow, needing lids and rings for my canning jars has convinced the cyberspace advertising gurus that I am a Doomsday Prepper. That is downright alarming, folks.
And don’t get me started on the political ads. If I “like” someone’s status on Facebook that can be construed as even remotely politically oriented, I get bombarded with ads for who should be hired, fired, re-elected, crowned, ousted or run out of town on a rail. Unfortunately, the poor sap who I am supposed to vote for changes on a near-daily basis, which seems pretty typical for our political system anyway.
Sometimes, though, the ads are so far off the mark of any interests of mine that they are amusing. For example, I have absolutely no interest in buying a smartphone, opening a credit card account or buying pants online. I also don’t have any need for infant formula, switching my car insurance or discovering how comfortable clogs can be.
I don’t plan to eat soy burgers for breakfast, to learn to play slot machines or to attend online graduate school any time soon. I can’t imagine why I would need a resource book on how to care for injured wild animals, and while my home could still stand some renovation, one thing I don’t need is new windows.
And again with the clogs? Oh, all right, I’ll take a look. After all, it says it’s the sale of a lifetime.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.