The three most infuriating ads in your Facebook newsfeed

This is the look of someone who's just been hit with their third consecutive botox discount offer today.

This is the look of someone who's just been hit with their third consecutive botox discount offer today. Photo: Uri Schanker

Online advertising in its myriad annoying forms is pretty unavoidable.  For example, take my advice and don’t assuage a moment of boredom by using Amazon to send your literary minded best friend a copy of a remarkably filthy Viking themed Mills & Boon.  Or rather, do it (because it will be hilarious), but be prepared for Amazon to remember this fact and to still be enthusiastically suggesting that you purchase ‘Truly, Madly, Viking’ several years later.  It seems that no amount of Margaret Atwood will convince Amazon that I’m not a Viking-obsessed pervert.

But then, at least Amazon is avoidable, at least until I manage to sully my reputation with Book Depository or with the bricks and mortar bookshop down the street.  Facebook, though, can seem fairly inescapable (tried organizing a social event without it recently?) and brings with it a whole new level of advertising intrusion. Herewith, then, is a taxonomy of Facebook ads as observed in the wild. 


Type 1: The just plain rude


If we were going to assign personality traits to social media networks (and bear with me, because things are about to get real speculative here), Twitter would be the crazy dude at the bus stop who won’t stop ranting about how the presence of halal food in Woolworths is a violation of the ANZAC spirit, right? 

Pinterest would be a yoga obsessed granola mom who runs an Etsy store selling grosgrain ribbon and hand-drawn cupcake stickers packaged into miniature mason-jars. 

LinkedIn would be the guy who won’t stop trying to give you his business card, even though you’re at your grandma’s funeral.  And Instagram would be a latte-drinker with a ukulele and a prominent tattoo of a Kurt Vonnegut quote. 

Facebook, though, would be that douchebro who’s just heard about the concept of negging and thinks it’s really going to help him land some tail.  Trying to have a quiet conversation with your friends?  BAM – Facebook sleazes over, shirt unbuttoned, to tell you that you could be really beautiful if you just lost some weight.  Just chilling out, watching some cat videos?  POW – Facebook wonders whether you’ve ever considered Botox, because gosh you’re looking old these days.

The weight loss thing is particularly infuriating.  I sent out a query to a group of women of my acquaintance, thinking that maybe I was the only one affected by the ‘one crazy trick to lose belly fat’ plague. 

Hah, yeah, nope. None of us have Facebook pages unsullied by weight-loss ads - Facebook, it seems, believes that the universal constant among women is a desire to be thin.  And incidentally, this small group featured one woman who has experienced an eating disorder, and who finds these ads extraordinarily difficult to cope with.

 The whole thing makes me want to mash cake into my face while shrieking ‘HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, ZUCKERBERG’.


Type 2: The eerily prescient

I am currently contemplating the possibility of some time working overseas.  Facebook knew this before I told my family, my friends or my cranky feline overlord (cat), and started recommending travel insurance. 

Facebook knows when I’m having trouble sleeping, and starts showing me herbal remedies.  Facebook knows my shoe size, my contact lens prescription, and, creepily, my birth control preference.  In fact I’m pretty sure that Facebook is staring through my window with a flashlight right now. 

Type 3: The super unhelpful

That is, except when Facebook drops the ball and starts getting itself a little bit confused.  Case in point: I spent the ‘90s in Tasmania, dividing my time fairly equally between going to school and reading novels in my bedroom while listening to No Doubt and Alanis Morissette on my Walkman.

 At no point did I attend the University of Melbourne, nor have I ever completed a Commerce degree (a fact that will be attested to by any of the saintly teachers who spent the ‘90s unsuccessfully attempting to shovel basic numeracy into my head).  Yet Facebook, for some reason, keeps trying to invite me to a reunion of ‘90s University of Melbourne Commerce graduates. 

Everywhere, Facebook is getting fundamental aspects of our identities wrong – ushering gay men towards dating sites featuring toothy blonde women, inviting happily married couples in their early 30s to experience ‘online romance for mature singles’, asking Greens voters to show their commitment to ‘stopping the boats’ and so on.  It’s quite comforting really, to think that maybe, just like the rest of us, Facebook has no idea about anything at all.  



16 comments so far

  • Use Adblock! For someone like me recovering from an eating disorder it's a sanity saver. You don't have to put up with aggressive advertising.

    Date and time
    August 15, 2013, 7:58AM
    • Not sure which category this fits into, but being offered ads for engagement rings by Facebook when my stubborn boyfriend will not propose makes me a) sad and b) angry.

      Date and time
      August 15, 2013, 9:37AM
      • Is there anything stopping you from proposing to your boyfriend?

        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 12:18PM
      • Shelley, try c) get a new boyfriend - You don't want to get stuck with one who'll only commit if you force him.
        Have you ever seen the movie "He's Just Not Into You"? I know it sounds like I'm being mean, I'm not, it's actually a good film with a few good lessons and life strategies.
        Good Luck

        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 1:22PM
      • Haha thanks for the advice, but it's ok, I'm just impatient!

        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 4:29PM
    • What I find startling is how Facebook apparently has your life mapped out for you. If you change your status to "In a relationship with" you'll seen be getting ads for engagement rings; once engaged it's all things wedding (although that link is fairly reasonable); and then, the ink is hardly dry on the marriage certificate before you're definitely, totally having a baby and you need all this stuff RIGHT NOW. Quite a few friends have commented on it.

      Being a single gal, I don't get those ads - I get weight loss, dating sites, and, most disturbingly, suggestions that for my next event I might want to hire a dwarf. As you do.

      Date and time
      August 15, 2013, 10:20AM
      • As a 30-something female, I am forever bombarded with ads to do with babies. I do not want children, ever. I have taken to asking Facebook to hide these ads then, when asked for my reason, I select "other" and type things like "babies are the spawn of the devil" and "oh dear god, that thing is terrifying!". If I'm feeling lazy, I just select the option to report the ad as sexually explicit (well, where do you think babies come from?)

        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 10:29AM
        • Love it Claire. I'm with you, yet luckily I don't get them. Probably because I am passed the age that I can have children. But great article. It is so true. As for adding an adblocker, that becomes almost as annoying as it than shows you an ad has been blocked but often the box is still there and intrusive, but without the photos.

          Date and time
          August 15, 2013, 12:20PM
      • The health & diet based stuff is just wrong.
        I have to admit that the adverts that really drive me to distraction are the ones for what are so conspicuously fake sunglasses, Oakleys in particular.
        I have told FaceBook over & over that I dont want to see these type of adverts. When you do this it asks for a reason & over & over I've replied 'these are obvioulsy fake products, stop showing them to me & stop accepting these adverts for what are obviously fakes or you could be seen as assisting in the sale of counterfeit goods' but still the adverts come.
        I even reported these adverts to the ACCC but naturally they had a p*ssweak response.

        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 10:55AM
        • I also get a laugh at the "lose belly fat" ads and then there are the ads about "dating single women in your area" or "meet Korean/Thai/Swedish/Philippino/Vietnamese girls now" ads.

          If Facebook thinks its business can survive on spam ads then it will be dead within a few years.

          As they say, Facebook is like a mediocre relationship: you've put so much effort into it that you don't want to end it and it's not really bad enough to force you to leave.

          Date and time
          August 15, 2013, 10:58AM

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