This post contains images of actual ads served to me by Facebook, but they’re pretty graphic and probably NSWF so I’ve censored them with 🍆 emoji.
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash
I’d love to quit using Facebook, but like many of you, I feel obligated to be on it for family, distant friends, events, groups, and business. I could probably get away from it, but certain aspects of my life would become more difficult.
My Facebook feed is full of garbage I don’t want to see. Friend suggestions for people I’ve never met. Mean spirited posts from friends with opposing political views. Marketplace recommendations for other people’s used junk. Clickbait-laden viral articles. Fake articles full of misinformation.
But the most infuriating thing about Facebook is the incessant, irrelevant advertising.
Roughly every 5th post in my feed is an ad; that’s 20% of my feed content. Sometimes it’s something loosely related to a personal interest, but most of the time it’s a realtor, car dealership, or get-rich-quick scheme ad. I already own a home, I don’t own or want a car, and I’m generally skeptical of schemes.
To combat the ads, I blanked my ad preferences by removing all interests, clearing all advertisers, hiding all ad topics, and blocking as much personal information from advertisers as Facebook allows. That basically left my A/S/L for Facebook to share with advertisers.
Facebook didn’t stop showing me ads. It just used what little information it had about me — a 40-something adult male in the United States — and started showing me these ads instead:
What. The. Fuck.
My Facebook feed was suddenly 20% dicks. Sometimes dick shapes, sometimes actual dicks, but always embarrassing to open with friends and family around. Hell, even by myself.
Most were advertising ED solutions while others were advertising penis enlargement or enhancement. Several were animated, so not only would I see a dick, I’d get to watch it go from limp to erect.
My Facebook feed turned into this:
- Sweet post from a friend about their family.
- A shared viral article about how big the moon will be tomorrow.
- Horrible news about a mass shooting.
- Photo of a friend’s child playing with a puppy.
- A dick. An actual giant, veiny dick.
Look at that ad on the right.
That was an extremely graphic ad. It wasn’t a medical illustration. It wasn’t a dick shape. It wasn’t an outline of a dick. No, it was a photo (or rather, Photoshop) of an actual gigantic dick. Other than the absurd size, it was completely realistic.
Naturally, I reported the ads as sexually inappropriate or offensive, but new dick ads kept coming and coming and coming. After a while, the ads seemed to lean towards less realistic medical images, but my feed was still 20% dicks.
Half the time, Facebook replied to my reports that the ad “does not go against our Ad Policies” which I guess means the advertisers cleverly skirted the line of inappropriateness. I disagree, but whatever. I quit reporting the dick ads because clearly, it wasn’t stopping them.
Instead, I started hiding ads and marked them as irrelevant or repetitive — even hiding the advertisers — but that didn’t help either. New dicks ads just kept on coming.
Side note: did you know it takes six clicks to hide an ad/advertiser? It’s frustrating. I’ve done it so many times it’s become muscle memory.
This turned into a sort of game: open Facebook, scroll until you see a dick, and see if you can punch through all six steps to hide the ad before your teenage kid notices the giant erect dick on your phone.
It didn’t work. No matter how many ads I blocked, I kept getting more. It seemed that Facebook was bound and determined to make sure every time I opened the app, I’d see dicks. My family was starting to get concerned with all the dicks on my feed—especially once I started taking screenshots of them so I could make this post.
I finally caved
It took about six weeks or so, but eventually, I just couldn’t take any more dicks. I went back to my Ad settings, turned on some interests, and unhid some advertiser information. I figured if Facebook knew more about me than just my age/sex/location, they might start serving regular ads.
It worked. Miraculously, almost overnight, no more dicks.
Now I get regular, non-dick related ads again. Ads for junky gadgets, workout equipment, perfume, fat burner pills, juice cleanses. Ad from realtors for houses I’ll never buy, car dealerships I’ll never visit, electric scooters I’ll never ride. Ads for Amazon Prime even though I already have a Prime membership. My Facebook feed is still full of garbage I don’t want to see, but at least it’s not full of dicks.
If you’re a 40+ guy like me, learn from my mistake and leave your ad settings alone or Facebook might dick you around, too.
I am a Digital Product Consultant helping organizations launch websites, apps, and brands. I also discuss more fun topics on my blog so subscribe for updates 🚫🍆