Stalked in America

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Experts say that social media has poisoned my generation.

Yet, when I was in college, Twitter and I had a very healthy relationship. Twitter stayed up with me all those late nights that I spent working on projects.

It entertained me during calculus class, so I didn’t fall asleep. And when I was meeting new people? I was sure to let Twitter know, so that they could identify the culprit if I ever went missing.

Twitter was so much a part of my college life that when I graduated in 2012, it lost its charm, and inevitably, we lost touch.

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Companies & their Ads Hijack Social Media

Recently, I learned that a strong presence on social media really makes the difference in freelancing. Subsequently, I’ve made the effort to strike up a relationship with Twitter, yet again.

To my surprise, the relationship has not been as healthy as it was in the past. I quickly found myself spammed with advertisements on everything from video games to cab services.

It’s been horrible. I have to be jumping through ads like an obstacle course just to connect with friends and followers. In fact, just last night a Lyft ad hijacked my Ubersocial and completely blocked off my timeline.

I had to restart my phone just to stop the 15 second ad from replaying over and over again. Unfortunately, this is a problem wherever you go in America.

No Escape – or is There?

I say “in America”, because it’s not the same everywhere else. For instance, in Jamaica we can watch video after video on YouTube without ever seeing a commercial. How many Americans can say that? Even on Instagram, we now have sponsored posts from major companies and tiny start-ups.

There is just no escaping advertisements, and they are increasingly invading our most personal spaces. In fact, today I found a receipt I got from Kroger that featured ads on the back of it in my purse.


Buy this!

Try this!

Unplugging Doesn’t Work

Some people will tell you to bond with nature. Go outside. Take a walk. Go hiking. That might lessen the likelihood of running into ads, but it certainly doesn’t stop it.

I have seen ads nailed to trees on hiking trails. I’m out admiring nature, and some company is trying to sell me shoes and car insurance.

America has basically given Fortune 500 companies the right to stalk me wherever I go. If we can ban bibles in schools, and smoking on planes, then there is no justification for advertisements in a place where people go to disconnect.

The View from Behind the Scenes

Recently, I obtained a client whose primary orders have been articles on marketing and public relations. Working on those projects has taught me even more about how big companies weasel their way into our homes and private spaces.

It’s always deliberate. They want to connect. And like good stalkers, they can’t just wait to run into us at work or school. No, they have to follow us home, and peek through our windows.

They hack into our devices so they can comb through our internet history. They want to see who we’ve been talking to and what about.

We’re all being stalked in America.


Americans have Superpowers

Funny enough, many Americans don’t seem to realise this. You’ve become so desensitised to the invasion, that you barely notice the uninvited guests in your homes and purses. Well, as a Jamaican, I notice.

We don’t have nearly as many confrontations with advertisements in our personal spaces the way Americans do. And when it happens, you can bet it’s mostly coming from American multi-national corporations.

Impressively, Americans have become so well at coping in this situation that they have developed an amazing superpower. The average American is quite adept at ignoring videos, pop ups and banners that companies use to catch their attention.

The Hidden Damage

Even so, while they don’t consciously acknowledge the ads, the damage is still done subconsciously. They’re the reason you have all those outfits in your closet that you’ve never worn.

That’s why you bought a brand new phone when the old one was working just fine. Ads created that growing pile of “stuff” you bought and used for a few months and then never had need for again.

How many of us actually use our Kindles and tablets every day, or utilise half the features we pay hundreds of dollars to have included on our cell phones?

Do you?

Raising Awareness

I wish I could tell you that this was one of those posts where I share a life lesson at the end that solves the problem, but it really isn’t.

Still, I hope that by shedding light on the issue, we might begin to pay closer attention to how these ads we think we’ve ignored affect our cultures and bank accounts.

At best, I can advise you to spend less time on social media and more time actually socialising. Take vacations to small towns and tiny islands. Go off the grid sometimes – even if it means just a few hours of hiking a trail.

Better yet, let’s start a movement to ban companies from stalking us in our private spaces.

But, until then, here are pictures of me stalking Mother Nature at Jones Bridge Park. I must say, she is one lovely lady. ♥

Have a good week, and feel free to rant away in the comments!

Originally published November 16, 2015

47 thoughts on “Stalked in America

  1. I think the biggest problem with ads is the stalking factor. Really generic ones I’ve become immune to, but I hate the ones that our custom for me. I do feel like I am being stalked, like my privacy is being invaded. I once texted a friend about a show that I was thinking about watching then all of a sudden there were ads for the show on my insta feed. It was a TEXT message they read.

      1. It was a netflix show my friend asked if I had seen and I don’t have netflix or watch TV series, so I don’t know how else it could have popped up, and it happened the next day. It scared me a little, I’m hoping it was just weird timing, but somehow I doubt that.

  2. It’s true. Everywhere you go there’s an ad. And another one. And another one. … I’m so annoyed by the constant badgering that I’ve started buying things I haven’t seen in ads.
    I get companies need to advertise. I want to scream about my book constantly. But there’s a line.

  3. We’ve had a major surge in ads on YouTube here in South Africa. I remember going from none to the occasional few. Now it’s every two or three videos. 😑

  4. Sorry about the previous comment. I couldn’t finish it because my phone is acting crazy and I refuse to buy a new one. I was saying that I wish I could throw all billboards advertisement in the garbage. I can’t stand seeing them on the road whenever I take a road trip. They block the view of the trees and cows that I like to see.

    1. It’s fine. I realised something like that must have happened.

      I can’t stand some of those billboards. It’s a wonder people don’t run off the road sometimes from reading and driving.

  5. There are reasons that I use Ad Blockers on all my browsers and I make sure to unsubscribe whenever I get those ads in my email.

    I personally hate all the ads on Facebook. That’s the most annoying part. Even more annoying is that it has made it that smaller business who tried to use Facebook for networking cannot compete because they can’t afford to pay for the advertising and the “boosts”.

    1. Oh, well so far mine hasn’t gotten to the point where I’m getting spam in my email. If I do, Gmail takes care of it. I think what yahoo is referring to is the ads they run in slots like most sites do.

      I can’t agree with you on that one since I’ve done adds for a few small business clients, including myself, and it’s pretty affordable. I spent $25 last month on ads and that was split between my two websites. It’s not as expensive as most people think it is. Twitter’s prices to me though, are completely unreasonable.

      I get that companies need to advertise. To me, that’s fine. My problem is when there are just too many ads or they pop up in places they shouldn’t be.

  6. Ads drive me nuts, which is why I have that add blocker plug in. Sometimes, I can’t believe how many ads it says it’s blocked on one page (it’s at 34 right now)!

    Facebook has started to do the sponsored post thing too, which is really annoying. I just went into my settings and found out it was tracking me for ads. No real surprise there. *Sigh*

    Thanks for writing about this Alexis, you’ve nailed it yet again. :]

    1. I didn’t know there were plugins for that. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t use sponsored posts to market my blog though.

      I like the sponsored posts on my Facebook. I’ve signed up for 5km runs and such thanks to those. The ones on instagram and twitter though have no relevance to my life, whatsoever.

      1. Yeah there’s a great one for Chrome that blocks nearly everything. I think about doing that and I wouldn’t mind if they were for blogs or writing stuff but the ones I’m getting are totally irrelevant to me, so it’s annoying. I think my ad block takes care of the twitter ads too actually.

      2. Oh really? That’s odd. Usually the relevance of the ad is what makes them so eyecatching. Maybe you clear your cookies very often, which is usually what sites use to know what to ‘sell’ you.

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