Artificial intelligence is a thing. I don’t understand it, and I’m not really interested in understanding it, but I’m told that Instagram scans my posts and the posts of my friends, multiplies them by the square root of something and then decides what ads to show me. In fact, the advertisements on my Instagram feed feel so oddly personal and insistent that I imagine Mark Zuckerberg himself scrolling through my online identity to get a feel for exactly what I need.
Some days I feel like he’s speaking directly to me. He sends me highly targeted and often appropriate ads with relentless repetition. The day I got a dog, I started seeing advertisements for dog things – bowls, collars, leashes. Weeks later, the day I fell in love with my dog, I started seeing advertisements for things crazy dog people might buy. How did he know? Yes, I want socks with my dog’s face on them. And multiple sequined pillows with photos of my dog. I bought one for every room in my house. Somehow Mark knows where I went to college and tempted me with a dog hoodie with my alma mater’s logo. I bought it immediately.
There are other frequent ads that make me a little paranoid. It’s pretty clear that Mark Zuckerberg thinks my thighs could use some work. I know this because he shows me ads for the Peloton bike multiple times a day – a woman my age riding one of those things in her living room with a sheen of sweat and a satisfied smile on her face. He tantalizes me with the cute instructor, the convenience, and the potential for me to parent while working out. (He’s got me all wrong here, I have plenty of more comfortable places to sit in my living room.) But why is he so sure I don’t have one of those things already? I scroll through my photos to find out.
To make matters worse, he knows I can’t do a headstand. For two weeks now, he’s been trying to get me to buy this contraption that protects your head and neck so it’s easier to do a headstand. Have there been murmurs around Mark’s office about my center of gravity? There’s no way that woman can do a headstand, they say. Get her one of these. Again, he’s got me all wrong. I have no interest in being upside down, no matter how easy you make it. In fact, the headstand moment in a yoga class is my favorite part, my chance to sit and marvel at the poor judgment of everyone around me.
He thinks I need jewelry that says inspirational things. What he doesn’t know is that none of my friends can see well enough to know that my pendant is engraved with a catchy phrase. At some point he got it in his head that I have a self-esteem problem, as he’s bombarding me with necklaces, bracelets and rings that all say “You are enough.” There’s something about that phrase that looks like a typo to me, like there’s a word missing. You are good enough? Tall enough? Tired enough? Mark, if you’re trying to get into my psyche, you’re going to have to be a little more specific.
Over the past few days it’s become clear that Mark Zuckerberg thinks my undergarments aren’t enough. I’m being bombarded by a constant stream of ads for bras and underwear designed my NASA. He shows me women in all states of discombobulating distress, then I swipe to see them miraculously pulled in, pushed up and put together. Is it my age, I wonder? There’s no way my niece is seeing these ads. I scroll through my photos to see what he’s seen, the image that’s given him cause for concern. Ah, there it is.