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The Stalker Becomes the Stalked: A Word on Internet Advertising

People love hating on the internet for the many ways it enables stalkers to more effectively ply their trade.  That being the case, I find it interesting that we hear almost nothing about an even more startling issue, i.e. the Internet’s ability to stalk us.  Here’s what I mean.  Just yesterday, I was minding my own business, trolling through a smattering of Facebook albums of girls I have never talked to but who visited the Caribbean over Christmas break when I was distracted by a banner ad to the left of my page.

In typical Facebook fashion, the ad featured a blazingly hot “local girl” with a form-fitting, spaghetti-strap tank top and a “come hither” look.  This girl, as with all the others, wanted very badly to make my acquaintance and would live in perpetual loneliness until I clicked the link, thus uniting her soul and mine in eternal bliss.  Now, I’ve followed enough of these alluring rabbit trails to know they inevitably lead to disappointment and heightened loneliness, but this one was different.  Beneath the inviting picture of the hospitable harlot was the text, “23 and still single?  Click here to meet girls!”

“Good heavens!” I exclaimed.  “Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am 23 and I am still lacking in romantic intrigues!”   What are the odds?  Have the forces of love and e-commerce united to meet my unique needs and assuage my deepest insecurities?  Turns out, no, they had not.  This was yet another ploy to drag me into their horrifying world of 1-800 numbers, online profiles, chat rooms, and photographs of unattractive people.

I moved on with my life, feeling deceived but otherwise unaffected.  Not long after this incident, however, I came across an eerily similar ad that read, “Christian, single, and living in Wheaton, Illinois?  Meet local Christian girls!”  (Strangely, the “Christian” girl in this ad looked remarkably similar to the hooker from the previous one.)  This time I was not fooled.  I was, however, a bit creeped out.  I closed my curtains, turned off the lights, and regarded my computer with suspicion.  How could the internet know so much about me?  Was my room bugged?  Had someone been going through my garbage?  Was one of my roommates setting these up?

Things only got worse from there.  I began noticing Kent-specific ads around every click, and not just on Facebook.

  • “Counting Crows fans click here!” That’s weird; I LOVE the Counting Crows!
  • “Brett Favre’s IQ is 200, find out yours!”  Holy cheesehead!  I always knew Brett Favre was a genius!
  • “Oklahoma City plumbers”  Wow! I’m from Oklahoma City and I’m a recreational pipe-fitter!
  • “Throw the banana at the monkey and win a Nintendo Wii!!!”  Hahaha!  Yeeahh!  I love monkeys!!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely flattering to have the information super highway halt whatever it was doing and focus its attention on satisfying my every whim.  It’s just a little overwhelming at times.  And by overwhelming, I mean invasive and unsettling.  Seriously internet, could you back off?  The fact that I enjoy posting personal information all over the web does not give you license to turn me into my own target market.  That information was between me and my internet friends; it’s got nothing to do with the marketing arm of freecreditreport.com.

At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before my screen is filled with flashing banner ads saying, “Are you a recently graduated business major from an unremarkable liberal arts college in the Midwest?  Are you single, unhappily employed, tired of the snow, looking for a church home, and searching for your place in the world?  CLICK HERE!!! (or we’ll come to your home and click it for you).”

It is the internet of the future and you better believe it’s coming for all of us.  Even the most stoicly unaffected web surfers will be powerless to resist as advertising becomes less about sales and more about mind reading.  It is for this reason that I no longer sleep in the same room as my computer.  I’d advise all of you to take similar measures.  I would also advise…Oh my!  What’s this?  Local girls are looking to hookup with guys who drive Chevy Cavaliers and use AT&T for their cell phone service!?  Yes please.

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