WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Ad Wars

Apr 10, 2019

This is a commentary.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

I get really tired of pop-up ads on my various computers. To fight the ads, I tried a few things. When shopping, I open an incognito page to learn about items I might want to buy.  I paused or turned off as many activities as possible on Google.  I turn off location on my cell phone unless I get lost.

I read a number of articles on how to make ads stop following me. If I wanted to do more, I’d need to learn a lot more about using computers and I do not have the patience for that. But ads were still driving me crazy on the one social media site I use. I’ll call it “AceBook” just in case I need to protect myself or some other innocent person.

I went to the settings page and looked at the Ads section. There were sections titled “Ad Settings” and “Hide Ad Topics”.  I turned off everything I could turn off and hid everything listed.  Still I saw advertising.  I reviewed the sections titled “My Interests” and “Advertisers”. Acebook had chosen an awful lot of things I wasn’t interested in.  Things like punk rock, military rank, Macomb County, Michigan, and Hammond, Louisiana. I also appeared on hundreds of on-line Advertisers mailing lists, also incompatible with my interests. Like Everyday Mom Life, Holistic Wife, Golf Channel, and Boredom Therapy.

So, I started removing individual advertisers.  I just clicked in the upper right corner of each one to remove the picture of the advertiser. My initial effort took a long time. I kept clicking on “See More” and it never seemed to end. Finally, there were none!  No more Acebook chosen interests or advertisers.  I thought I was ad-free. 

But no, the next day there were more listed, but not as many as the day before. Nevertheless, I persisted. Every few days, I removed interests and advertisers.  Soon, there were only two or three items in the “My Interests” section.

When looking at my Acebook friends’ posts, I also started hiding individual sponsored ads that popped up, marking “irrelevant” as my reason to hide.

After a few weeks, there were times that I had no Acebook-chosen interests and about half of the individual advertisers were showing as already removed. I started to believe that I was winning Ad Wars!  I’ve even found some days with no advertisers at all.

The ads in my news feed started getting more interesting. Now they were for classes in photography, writing, film-making, arts and crafts. These days I can look through my news feed for a long time before coming across an irritating ad. The only “sponsored” posts I get are when Acebook suggests that I create ads for the pages I manage.

I’m sure there are much more sophisticated ways of escaping advertising on-line, but I had fun battling the ads and feeling a bit of victory.  I feel that I have just a little bit of control over the world.

Gayle Carper is a member of the Macomb City council and she’s a retired attorney and retired Professor of Law at Western Illinois University.   

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.