I was on Facebook the other day and a personalized ad popped up for me: “Bras especially for small chested women.” 


Facebook, isn’t that kind of personal? I’m not sure anybody else in the world knows (or cares) about my bra size, but you. And who says that I’m small chested? I mean, by definition maybe this is true, but I thought I was just. fine. in that department. I’m a small person, so of course my body parts are on the petite side of things.

Given that you seem to know what size undergarments I wear, Facebook, it seems that we are on fairly intimate terms. You know that I might like “Fashion for Women over 40.” I’m a decade past that now, so this feels like a compliment. Thank you. In fact, since you know me so well, can I just call you by a nickname, “FB”? Thank you, I’ll do that.

FB, You Know a Lot (but not everything)

You send me ads for reading glasses, my friend. Yes, you’re right, I need these. I’ve received ads for skin care products for mature women and online yoga sites. You even send me pictures of the exact clothes I’ve debated purchasing. How do you know that I might want to buy that? (It’s so cute!!) It seems like you think I should.

FB, you may know me better than most. You know not only my sizes, but what I like to do and what kind of food I eat. In fact, you are always up to speed on what’s new with me. Unlike with my girlfriends, you and I never need to meet and catch up on things. 

However, I need to tell you, FB, that you aren’t perfect. If you really cared about me, you would remind me to do free things I enjoy away from the computer: read a book, have unstructured time, admire the sky, exercise and see friends. You have some work to do. But since there’s no money to be made in those things, you’ll never get to know my soul.

Targeted Marketing Not New

Targeted marketing is not new, of course. About a decade ago, when we had three teenage daughters and things were rocky at home, I received a shipment of baby formula in the mail. Baby formula? Why did I get this? I wasn’t expecting, nor was I thinking about a baby. Perhaps somebody in our house bought a pregnancy test somewhere and it was somehow tied to our address, and the company wanted to promote their product with the potential mom-to-be, who “they” guessed was me. Thankfully, they were wrong.

Now that time has passed and our daughters are older, I think this marketing was kind of funny and a perfect illustration of the challenging times we were having. But it was weird to feel like a company knew more about what was going on in our family than I did.

We’ve Always Known Each Other

We’ve all been warned that when we’re online, we leave a digital trail of all we do that is there forever. I could worry about that. But the more I think about it, in a way, this is how things have always been on a much smaller scale with our friends, family and co-workers.

Before computers, it feels like we used to have more privacy. And we probably did. However, we know a lot about each other in person without ever being told any of it. In fact, everyone that knows me in real life can probably guess what size clothing I wear. They also know what I like to do. There are not a lot of secrets. We’re adept at reading each other.

And now our computers know us too. Of course, there are serious consequences of too much of our personal information being out there. But I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world. Which is good, because I’m not sure how we can be unknown these days, whether it be by humans or computers.

Now FB, my friend, when you start sending me ads for dentures or Medicare, I will have to look in the mirror and wonder if you are right. Chances are, you will be on to something. And I know you won’t be shy about telling me so.