Technology is fascinating, inspiring, and terrifying. If you use a computer or mobile device to access the internet, you probably already know you’re being watched. Tech giants like Google and Facebook track virtually everything you do and know more about you than some of your good friends.
In fact, did you know Facebook watches your patterns in order to build its own image of you? It’s true. The things you like, the websites you visit, your profile information, and even your purchases are all pieces of a puzzle you (unintentionally) build. Why? So Facebook can target ads to you—or really, the image of you they think is most accurate.
You can see this image for yourself.
I’ll provide directions for accessing yours in a minute, but first—let’s take a look at my top categories:
So basically, Facebook sees me as:
A lonely, lonely Sagittarius who lives far from her family and friends, can’t stay in one place for long, and manages multiple business’ pages from her dinosaur-era iPhone.
Aside from the old phone bit, I don’t much agree with the picture Facebook has painted of me. And, it got me thinking—if I could craft it myself, how would I want Facebook to categorize me? Probably something like this:
This is how I view myself, and I feel fairly confident others would agree with this categorization. So, why doesn’t Facebook see me this way?
The answer is simple. They even spell it out themselves:
“We’ve added you to these categories based on information you’ve provided on Facebook and other activity.”
In other words:
“You have an old phone, check in to other cities on a frequent basis, and post about missing your friends. You don’t post about the things that really matter to you, so we can’t help. #Sorrynotsorry Sincerely, Facebook”
Okay, okay, I hear you… how Facebook sees you is not important. What matters is how you view yourself. Yes. Of course. But, still… I think it’s important to consider our categories because it’s a glimpse into how we’re portraying ourselves online.
For example, some of the things I consider most important are foster care and “mom bossing.” Am I posting enough about the devastating budget cuts to our social services, or speaking out about how women can succeed at both motherhood and career? Obviously, I’m not.
This is about more than Facebook. At the end of the day, I really don’t care how they choose to target me with advertisements. I am a marketer, I get it.
Instead, it’s about how we portray ourselves to the world at large. The things we say (or don’t say). The actions we take (or don’t take). It’s about how we perceive challenges, the things we stand up for, the words we choose.
Try this: broaden your scope to more than Facebook and advertisements. Think of Facebook as the world, and advertisements as opportunities and people.
Now, consider this analogy:
If I tell Facebook (the world) that I like traveling and reading, Facebook (the world) will provide me with ads (opportunity) tailored to those interests.
When I tell Facebook (the world) that I stand for social justice and love 90s boy bands, Facebook (the world) will provide me with ads (people) that share those interests.
As a result, I’ll make important connections and have opportunities to spark change. I’ll enjoy life to the fullest. Memories will be richer, friendships stronger, and joy greater.
So after all, maybe these categories are more important than I thought.
What are your Facebook categories? You can find out today:
From your computer:
- Log into Facebook
- Click on the down arrow on the far right, top
- Ads (left side)
- “Your information”
- “Your categories” tab
From your smartphone:
- Open the Facebook app
- Click on the “hamburger menu” (three lines) at the bottom right
- Account settings
- Manage your ad preferences
- Your information
- Your categories