By Tina Budeweit-Weeks (For more on Facebook, link to Time Colonist article HERE)The ads on Facebook are starting to pique my interest because it seems that they are representational of the mindset that the artificial intelligence of the website has decided I am. As a result of the combination of my age and female gender, I see that I am expected to have fears and concerns that they then address. I’m sure that if my profile contained things for the horsie set, or the Nascar set or the WWF set, it would reflect accordingly, but in my case, its grown more and more interesting to me, as I write the articles for this publication and others relating to body image that this vein of concerns is what comes up for me in the ads on webpages I frequent. That’s the long winded way of saying that I am concluding that I am supposed to be concerned about my youthful appearance, which, by the time a woman is my extreme age of 52, should be heading to the wrinkly end of things. In the FB banner on the right side of my page as I wander through, there are three ads continuously. In the pages over the past week, one ad admonishes me to rid myself of 15 years of wrinkles to look more like Jennifer Aniston, another shows a photo-shopped picture of a heavily made up Celine Dion, inferring that she has the secret to youth, while yet a third ad in the banner asks me why Angelina Jolie looks so young. Apparently, from these visual cues on my personal laptop, I am being told that I should be concerning myself with my appearance. To look youthful even takes precedence over looking slim and I’m wondering when that shift happened, when the concentration of weight conscious ads that were presented to my retinas, gave way to this new trend of encouraging me to disregard my weight related physical shortcomings, for the purely superficial concerns that relate to my face showing age. It’s as if I am being told that at my age, my shape and health are not the concern that I should prioritize to, but that my appearance to others is. This is so wrong in so many ways that I marvel at it. Hard to wrap my brain around how insidious supports for my malignant drill sergeant exist even in innocuous places like my trusted Facebook pages, but there lies the example. Do the programmers of these websites KNOW that we are all facing inner demons that influence our spending power? Take a look at the banners that run alongside you as you peruse the web. Your pc sends information that is being calibrated constantly to indicate what kinds of tags gain a response from you and then you are hit with ads that are relational to your cultural mores, your preferences, your concerns and where the internet thinks you are in your life. In my developing skills around creating newsletters I’ve gone from hands-on assembly in the days of typewriters, and being scarred emotionally from the woes of triplicate copies, utilizing the latest in carbon paper sheets, to today’s formatted computer program that creates a template and all you have to do is fill it in. The thing about learning these programs is that they reveal the underpinnings of what web-mistresses and web-masters see. As a result, I have learned that all websites are set up to constantly collect information as you are visiting them. Those who function in the back of a website can put in tags that will catch your query words regarding a plethora of the issues related to food disorders. When you are cruising on yahoo or google or Facebook, our programs can catch your pc whizzing by looking for something on a body issue and instantly, your screen shows our ad in the little side banner on FB. Ever wonder why you recieve ads that relate to you demographically? They show businesses in your area that would likely support something that you have shown interest in, in the past. This is what got me looking at the ads that appear on my page in the first place. As I surfed through the social utility that FB claims to be, playing the odd game here, commenting on someone’s comment there, sending email to my families, uploading the day’s digital photos etc, I wonder how much my activities online can be tracked and what that tells the collective database about me. It’s as if the ads are a visual manifestation of what our core beliefs that are externally imposed on us by our surroundings and experience are. As if I am being subliminally told to be concerned that I am starting to look my age and to focus my fears and concerns in that arena. But that’s where it gets interesting, as I am not the least bit concerned about that and have much deeper concerns relating to other things that take priority. If I had issues around my biological age, I would think that this was something to be worried about. The anomaly here is that my face is very youthful and doesn’t reflect my age as many of my peers are surely experiencing. For one example, I am anything BUT concerned about my youthful visage as I am wider than a house and determined to put my rising weight gain on a U-turn to return to a size that is less difficult to steward. So why doesn’t my FB reflect my big behind and give me ‘Curves’ ads or ‘Jenny Craig’ ads… or whatever? When you are online, watch with one eye at what ads are being flashed on your monitor for your continuing concerns. Do your own analysis of what this is trying to tell you what to think. Notice what cues you are likely to take away from the repeated presence of these insistent features of our everyday lives. And then notice how they play right along with that pesky drill sergeant in the back of your mind, who doesn’t know how to be respectful. While I’m processing this about what the net perceives my needs are, what I’m noticing is that my drill sergeant has for the most part, been silenced. As a result, it’s as though FB can’t tell what my concerns are anymore. As though it’s shooting blind at my psyche, trying to guess where my fears lie, and missing badly. Dare I think that now that I have these basic tools that the CEDRIC philosophy has provided within me, that I’ve managed to curtail the voice that belaboured my every move? Maybe as a side benefit, I’m no longer subliminally feeding unwitting information to the harvesting software that is attached to people’s websites, and the ads no longer reflect cues that relate to me. Maybe this indicates a way to tell that your life has changed, by the accuracy or inaccuracy of the ads that are presented to the internet savvy food disorder survivor. Perhaps, if the ads feel relevant, your drill sergeant still has his mitts on you, if they don’t, you’re free! Yippee… You know where that leaves me!
Tina Budeweit-Weeks is a member of the CEDRIC Success Team in the role of staff writer and executive assistant for Michelle Morand. Her philosophy has always been one of self-nurturance and dignity. In support of the complex difficulties clients may experience around regaining a healthy balance, Tina’s writing is designed to sympathize, support, encourage and inform. Although there are many similarities in Tina’s process, she is not a client, but a hard working, behind-the-scenes member of the team, dedicated to helping the CEDRIC Centre stay current and effective.