Oi! Facebook! Stop Telling Me To Lose Weight

11/07/2013 20:49 | Updated 22 May 2015

You know what's really getting on Philippa Warr's wick? Targeted Facebook adverts telling her to lose "troublesome pounds"...

As part of its ongoing quest to ingratiate itself into my life, Facebook appears to have decided to play the part of "relative who turns up out of the blue and can't help making snide remarks about my appearance even though the conversation was actually about something completely different".

The result is that when I skim my news feed for updates from my friends I will also find sponsored posts telling me that I can lose those troublesome extra pounds or gain beach body confidence if only I click the link.

girls on beach

When they started appearing in my feed I had a quick glance through the pages I like and the interests I list on my profile to see whether anything there was causing me to be targeted. Had I accidentally added an interest in "losing troublesome extra pounds" or "gaining beach body confidence"?

The only vaguely relevant options were a friend's vegan cupcake business and a sushi eating challenge from a Pokemon videogame in the late Nineties. Wondering whether I was alone in being judged and bodyshamed by adverts, I conferred with my fellow female Facebookers. Long story short? It resulted in the following status update:

"After chatting to fellow lady folk we have agreed Facebook's constant weight loss suggested posts can f**k the f**k off."

So what's the problem here? The problem is algorithms, demographics and business.

Algorithms are simply processes which take some data, run it through a program and produce a result. In this case the data is the personal info you've given to Facebook - gender, age and so on - the result is you get slotted into demographic categories. Advertisers then pick which demographics they want to target with their ads and you'll start seeing them in your news feed.

Unfortunately I, along with most of my friends and the majority of the readers of MyDaily fall into the female 18-24 and 25-34 categories. We're highly desirable advertising targets when it comes to fashion and beauty and, when you're trying to convince someone your product will improve their life, one of the ways you do that is by making them feel inadequate as they are. The saddest thing is that, as a broad sales tactic, it works.

"Would you like to boost your beach body confidence?" implies we are unhappy with our current bodies. That things could be better. That going to the beach is a less enjoyable experience because of how we look right now. "Would you like to lose those troublesome extra pounds?" You're assuming they exist in the first place and then further assuming we are troubled by them.

I fundamentally object to the fact that being women with a certain number of birthday candles to our name makes us targets for ads designed to make us feel bad about ourselves and our bodies. It's not for health reasons and it's not because we've expressed a previous interest in any of those activities or products, it's because making people feel bad about themselves is a viable sales strategy.

Each individual advert gets reported as offensive the moment I see it and disappears from the stream, but every instance makes me want to spend less time on Facebook. If the company isn't careful the "judgy relative" strategy will see it join its real-life counterpart as a thing only to be tolerated when there's a wedding, birth or anniversary obligation to fulfil.

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