You are the Product

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A recent New York Times report said internal Facebook documents indicate that Mark Zuckerberg’s Frankenstein monster, despite promises to keep our info private, in fact, shared and traded it – including our private messages (let that sink in) – with other Silicon Valley giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo!, along with media conglomerates and auto companies.

“You are the product,” a Times analysis said.

When I read that, I was so ticked off, I wanted to quit Facebook for good.

But I haven’t – yet – because, dammit, Facebook is how I interact with readers … and also how I keep track of far-flung friends and family members.

Meaning: I want to quit it. But I can’t. You may be in the same situation.

So, what are we to do? How do we fight back?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but if I’m going to be a product that Zuckerberg sells to the world so the world can sell me stuff, I’m at least going to be an interesting product.

For example, I’ve been noticing that the ads I get on Facebook, Amazon and Yahoo! tend to be for products created for, you know, SOME guys my age, which is why I get a steady stream (no pun intended) of online ads for Depends, catheters, Viagra, burial insurance and hearing aids.

I used to think this was just a coincidence, but maybe it’s not. What’s likelier is that what I post or look at on Facebook gives the advertising world the impression that I’m an 80-year-old man with world-class prostate and circulatory issues who is close to kicking the bucket when, in fact, I’m not NEARLY that old. (For the record, I’m 57, near as I can remember, and have none of those problems. And if I did, I’d never tell you about them.)

So, what if I began depicting myself on Facebook as the Andy I’d rather be than the Andy I actually am? Would that change things?

I’m going to try and find out.

First, I’ll replace my photo with one of Brad Pitt or maybe Howie Long (who, as my dearly departed brother, Dan, once remarked – out of the blue, while we were watching a football game – is “one good-looking man.”)

That, alone, should get me off Viagra’s target list.

I’ll probably tweak my professional profile a bit, too. Self-describing as a mildly sarcastic newspaper columnist probably begs for fiber supplement ads.

But if I were an adventure-travel blogger who dabbles in authoring long, pretentious think-pieces about fine Scotch and expensive cigars, well, that’s bound to change Madison Avenue’s view of me, right? Maybe I’ll get free samples …

I might also post some profoundly altered photos of me shirtless with six-pack abs. People who know me will laugh hysterically, knowing I don’t have a one-pack, much less six.

Finally, I think I’ll delete all references to and photos of the lovely yet formidable Marcia. I mean, I love her, and she remains the same beautiful woman I married a long time ago. But she’s my age, and I can’t have her dragging down my age rating, or whatever metric Facebook, Yahoo! and others use to target me with insulting, age-appropriate ads.

No offense, sweetie. It’s a digital world, and a guy has to keep up.

Blame Zuckerberg, not me.

(Postscript Thought: Remember how all the dystopian books like “1984” envisioned a future where the government would function as Big Brother, watching and noting our every move? Turns out they had it backward. It’s Big Tech, instead. And they don’t impose it. We sign up for it.)

 

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