Words on Wednesday

Wednesday (3)

I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about targeted advertising and its effects on mental health.

Targeted advertising campaigns are usually run by online services, typically social media such as Facebook and Instagram.  This type of advertising uses different methods of selecting the types of adverts we see, from items we have searched for online, products we have bought, our location, age, gender, race, and even relationship status.  Some of these adverts are specifically targeted, for example, you may have searched for a certain type of tea and start seeing more adverts for different types or brands of tea, others could be more generally targeted, such as posting your relationship as being single, you may get targeted with dating site adverts, others may use your demographic, mine being female, 30’s, single, in full or part and match your stats to what others in that group have been searching for, or things that advertisers may think your age group are interested in.

My thoughts on the types of targeted advertising.

  • Specifically Targeted.

I don’t mind specifically targeted adverts as I find that I can discover other brands that I may never have heard of before or items I may never have considered.  This type of advertising is a bit like browsing the supermarket shelves and can expose us to more brands and deals.

  • Generally Targeted.

Generally targeted adverts can be a good or bad thing, I’m neither for or against this type of advert.  Back in my Facebook days, I found lots of things I was interested in through generally targeted adverts, equally were the adverts that I saw making the assumption that I was lonely and needed to find a date what with being single and everything…(eyeroll)

giphy-downsized

  • Demographically Targeted.

This type of advertising is one that I have seen a huge rise in and the one that I find affects me most mentally.  I see adverts for weight loss products, fertility treatments, baby and toddler things, wedding dresses, the list is endless.  This type of advertising makes assumptions based on what it knows about you and where you fit in society, what your age group and gender are searching for, not you specifically, and this is the advertising I think that is most damaging to our mental health.

Why do I think this demographically targeted advertising is most damaging to our mental health?

This advertising makes assumptions about us regarding our age, gender, location and shows adverts that others in that group have been looking at.  Now, the adverts that I have seen assume that because I am in my 30’s I am thinking about or having children, that I am looking to lose weight quickly, planning a wedding, buying my dream home, and I’m not doing any of those things.  On a good day, this kind of advertising doesn’t bother me, and in all honesty, I don’t pay it that much attention, however, on a bad day, this sort of advertising can add to my negative mood.  I find myself comparing me to others, feeling sad, lost and insecure, unaccomplished and wondering if I am good enough.

Instagram introduced a mute button for us to still follow an account but not see their feed anymore, partly to stop us feeling so overwhelmed by others seemingly perfect lives (well, that is what I have used it for in the past) and it has been a suggested technique by several articles to help people to start loving their own lives again.  I have gotten used to seeing perfectly styled Instagram images and am aware that the images we see are highly curated, well lit and edited, and I view them as I do magazine images –  they are only that way for a second and no one sees how bad things may be behind the camera lens, or know in truth what is really happening behind the scenes.  What I am unable to block or mute are these demographically targeted adverts that I seem to be bombarded with each and every time I step foot onto social media.  And if I am being affected by them, how many others are as well?

What do you think of demographically targeted adverts?  Let me know in the comments!  I’d love to hear your opinion.

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