How well does Instagram know you?

If you’re curious, go into Instagram’s settings and navigate to the “security” section, and you can access all of your account’s data. Inside there are lots of funny things such as old usernames and old bios. It’s incredibly embarrassing to recall how you represented yourself on the internet in the past. 

However,  what’s even more embarrassing is if you scroll all the way down to the bottom and see the quaint section titled “Ad Interest,” you will find everything that Instagram thinks you like. Go ahead, look. Since your first mindless scroll, our good friends at Instagram have been monitoring any and every ad you’ve clicked on, or even any page you’d clicked on, to be able to solicit the right products to you.

At first, I shivered at the thought of this interminable force inside my pocket knowing everything I like. That anytime I clicked on anything I’d be forced to endure endless ads and page suggestions. But I decided that I should switch my lens. What if it’s not so bad? What if Instagram trying to curate my online activity is just like a new friend trying to get to know you? And even if Instagram is some giant, hidden, and evil force, how are they going to hurt me knowing that I sometimes shop for new clothes online?

As I write this, I’m looking at my suggested ad categories. Three things that stick out and are relatively close to the top of the list are dogs, hip hop music, and shoes. I’d consider myself incredibly fond of those three things, so what’s the harm if I see a nice pair of Nike SBs, Wu-Tang Clan related content, or a picture of an excellent golden lab on my timeline? Relatively nothing. So this new friend of mine, Instagram, is such a good friend that they know just what I like.

However, there’s a big, blue, and beautiful button that reads “view more” at the bottom of all the things that Instagram thinks you like. You can click it once, twice, three times, and it will continue to offer its endless speculative categories of your “interests.” So, if I go a few “view more”’s down, I can see that Instagram thinks that I like Sneaker Freaker, Miami bass, and Korean hip hop. I can say in confidence that I don’t like any of these things. I’m not a freak for basketball sneakers — although I am for skate shoes, so maybe I can’t blame them — I definitely don’t associate with the aesthetic that is associated with Miami bass, which I can only assume is EDM music, and I have never even listened to Korean hip hop.

To be completely transparent and fair, every time I open Instagram it’s my last chance of entertaining myself, so my standards are incredibly low. Plus, if I started getting ads out of the ordinary like Korean hip hop or Miami bass, it would be so similar to an obscure meme that I wouldn’t mind. But if the majority of my suggested ads are so far off that it’s comical, is it a problem? Is there some sort of online version of myself that exists with nothing but incorrect interests about myself? If so, it may be an issue. But of course, all of this only matters if you’re curious.

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