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Towards a bra-free Instagram experience (medium.com)
241 points by koolhead17 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments

> Do men on Instagram contend with this many half-naked dudes and their butts all the time? I really want to know.

I really feel for this comment, as women are hyper-sexualized and we have a broken culture of stuff that optimizes for the male gaze, and so this is a common complaint.

But this isn't about sexuality, this is about insecurity. These specific ads are only showing skin so they can hit a weak spot in the viewer and break them down to buy stuff.

The same patriarchal cultural BS about what it means to be a real woman also exists as a pressure against men, it just leads to a different set of insecurities.

Example: I feel insecure about losing my hair. I still have hair... and it shouldn't really matter?... but it is thinning :/; and, when I think about it, it makes me sad.

(edit:) To be clear, I mean the kind of "sad" where every time I see myself in a mirror and every time I wash my hair and even if my hair falls a weird way, it hits me. It is an ever-pervasive "insecurity" in my life that I fight with every day, and where I am dreading what it will be like in another two or three years :/.

I manage to forget about it a lot, or even get to a place where I look at myself in a mirror and am like "this is fine... I don't mind how I look today, so I am happy"

But like, one day, I decided to research products and procedures designed to prevent or hide hair loss. I spent hours on it. I didn't end up deciding to do anything.

But the Internet remembers. The Internet now knows that I have an insecurity, and people with an insecurity are profitable. People like me are why ads make money :/.

So now, every few damned days, while going through my Instagram "stories", I am given a sponsored interstitial ad for hair loss prevention products and services.

Fuck you, Instagram.

I don't know about Instagram because I don't use it but I'm a guy and I've looked up a dumbell or two on Amazon and read some articles about getting fit and consequently I am actually often hit with ads featuring men with perfect abs, great pecs, and huge arms and legs.

As an slightly overweight guy with no abs and skinny arms (what is now called a "dad bod"), while I do not personally feel insecure seeing these ads I can see why people would.

I feel like the general response to woman being objectified has been to even the playing field by also objectifying men. "Oh? There are too many woman butts in movies? We'll fix it... lets start showing lots of male butts too."

With that said, only one of those ads I feel "sexualized" women. Most of them were less racy than the Macy's catalogs I used to sneak a peak at when I was 6 before the Internet. I only see completely non-sexual fitness and clothing ads in this article.

Do some online mattress shopping. Load different mattresses into your cart and abandon. Etc, etc.

The internet might not forget that you care about hair loss, but the mattress stores will outbid the hair-loss companies.

Oh god. I appreciate your comment, but something about this advice gets me. Is this sort of thing what _literacy_ is now...

Yeah, I share the same sentiment.

Learned a bit more about online ad bidding dynamics, but will continue to browse the internet with JS/cookies disabled by default as well as spoofing info on every request from user agents related to what api's are available with my custom build on a fork from firefox nightly.

So you are attempting to evade tracking by being uniquely identifiable?

The information is "real" in that it is information that has been collected from a sampling of browsers of users from over the internet, or particular subset from local users connected to a nearby public network(s). As long as I'm not logging into something that would personally identify me, for all intents or purposes, I might as well be any number of the people around me connected to a network that I sampled. So even if I enabled javascript/cookies/etc, at worst I would be delivered a sampling of the ads the people around me (or the data that I sampled) were being sent.

I'm also, not on facebook/instagram/twitter etc, so I avoid the downsides of the social media bubble all together. If I "need" to use such services, I'd just create a dummy account, and discard it after.

It's not so much to evade tracking (although it can be effective in some instances), but to dirty the waters/avoid the feedback loop from tracking via ads delivered or the parasitic choices (or lack their of mostly) of others who just do nothing and jump head first into the next available skinner box.

Not like it would be impossible for a nation state actor to move against me.

The thing that drives me nuts is I see ads for a long time after of products I just bought. I already bought the product, why would I want to see tons more ads for it (especially when I saw zero ads before I bought it).

That may be done (even offline), to prevent buyer's remorse and to reinforce your choice of having bought that product — so you don't return it or give it away with a negative view of it. It's all mental manipulation.

Likely not, with the incentives involved in pay-per-click advertising. Your pre-purchase online activity put you in a particular cohort, so Facebook sells "impressions by people in this cohort" to advertisers, who then talk about the cohorts they targeted in impressive-looking reports that convince mid-level executives that their advertising is effective and they should continue to pay the marketing department salaries.

The actual ground reality of "bought a one-off product and doesn't care about future purchasing of said products" doesn't matter. I saw ads pretty constantly for the coding bootcamp I had just graduated from. All that matters in these transactions is checking off the targeting boxes, which everyone involved is pretty eager to do because it makes their numbers look better.

This often occurs if proper exclusion lists are not setup for past purchasers at the SKU level (somewhat of a headache at scale). Instead, often these campaigns might use a duration-based list option.

So for example, you might target an audience of people who viewed a product detail page for 7 days. If you purchased on day 3 and there was no SKU level exclusion list, the targeting has no way to know you already bought it. In this case you might see the ad for a few more days.

That’s great, but doesn’t explain why we get ads for things not during three months of scouring product reviews but only after the purchase.

“Oh! This consumer bought a new car! Let’s show them ads for more cars in case they buy another car on impulse!”

Exactly the point I was trying to make and feel you likely did better! Thanks :)

Likely a combination of poor targeting, budget allocations, prioritizing other audiences, etc. It is much messier than a lot of people realize if they don't do it for a living.

This definitely would sound like a very plausible theory, except most times it's for companies which have only one (or maybe two) products. To me, it seems more likely that they are getting swindled by some ad company helping manage their campaigns, but that could be my bias against many of those types of companies showing.

While that could be a factor, it usually amounts to a combination of poor targeting, and other harder to control factors like loss of cookie data and cross-device tracking challenges that can easily create these situations.

It is much messier to manage in real life than people think.

I went through a series of jokes with mates about buying those several thousand dollar audiophile network cables[0]. Facebook has been showing me ads for these things fairly consistently since about March.

[0] I would put an Amazon link here.. but I don't want to do it to you.

I'm going to do the same and I'm going to click on every single one that comes up. I bet the CPC for those things is obscene.

> The same patriarchal cultural BS about what it means to be a real woman also exists as a pressure against men, it just leads to a different set of insecurities.

I think that's a false equivalence. I'm hoping not to lose my hair, but I also kind of don't give a shit. I didn't grow up with society telling me how important it was to "look my best so I feel my best!" How often do you think Bill Gates thinks about his liver spots? John McCain probably hasn't thought of his hairline in decades. Because society really does not give a shit what men look like, unless they're in one of the few fields where looking good is part of their job.

The closest correspondence is maybe with the focus on guys being good at sports. Yeah, that kind of sucked in middle school, but it's been two decades since anyone cared whether I could make a basket. Heck, even if I was great at basketball now, nobody would give a shit.

The closest correspondence is men being financially successful, along with all the skills and status symbols that entails.

Notice that we're providing free content marketing for an organization whose value proposition is "we'll help you get rich". Men are not immune at all.

Not remotely similar. Men have pressure to be employed, but there is a ton of acceptance and even glorification of average men with average jobs. There is nothing shameful and even something honorable in being an “average Joe.” Contrast with how we treat average looking women. We don’t say “you’re average looking and that’s fine.” We say “everyone is beautiful.” Thats not acceptance, it’s misdirection. That’s not how we treat men. Nobody would say to men: “everyone is rich.” That’d be stupid and untrue. But with women we rely on misdirection so we don’t have to confront the fact that we place so much emphasis on how women look.

I agree. My point was not that it is equivalent in scope (as the kinds of insecurities we foist on women are just brutal), but that I don't think that we would expect to see it come up as simply "half naked men".

I am also "overweight" (at the borderline for being clinically "obese", even), but it isn't something that haunts me every day and makes me question if I will ever be valued as a person again when I look in a mirror the same way we do with women.

Maybe to you, but the younger generation is different.

My cousin is a psychiatrist at a college, who has wishes there was a cure to baldness because so many young men become suicidal from balding.

The social media generation values looks very very highly.

This is not entirely true. Look at the stats for tall men getting promoted, expecting higher salaries over the course of their lifetime, etc. Height is one metric that men are subconsciously judged by, for better or worse, despite having nothing to do with actual leadership skills. Our base instincts still influence us as organisms.

There's an entire episode of the Simpsons premised on Homer getting his hair back and being promoted as a result:


Sure, it's a cartoon, but it's funny because it's true.

I was in highschool when a girl commented to me, "You are going bald." The next couple of years were rough, but eventually, I just owned it. Sure, I'd probably rather have hair than not, but it is what it is. Now in my very early 40s, my beard is more grey than not. Apparently hair doesn't like me. Now I see people with hair all the time in commercials, and in real life. Doesn't bother me. But if I were targeted over and over by ads trying to make me feel bad about being bald, and just go get hair plants already, well...I would not like that at all.

Hell don't even get into the bugaboo that things like Propecia and Rogaine do to make it hard for some men to perform. That right there should be a warning on the damned side of the bottle. Want to talk about something that gives two people body issues, that can be crippling.

How are you going to sell bras without showing some skin? I'd imagine fit and look, as seen on a real person, are paramount in driving purchases.

For that matter, the packaging on men's underwear is pretty sexualized too... always made me feel weird buying it. I just want comfortable underwear :<

Showing ads with a similar body, age and colour to the user might drive sales better.

This already happens to an extent but with sex, age, race, and lifestyle taken into account but it's usually still a conventionally attractive model. You're absolutely right that it increases sales.

I am pretty sure that showing repulsive models would drive sales down. So, stuck with showing okay looking models, at worst.

The advertising industry will find a way to do that regardless of the medium - whether it’s Instagram or whether it’s a shitty blog with AdSense on it.

Your criticism should probably extend to the way the entire advertising industry conducts it’s operations and that’s a massive discussion with an incredible amount of nuance that we probably couldn’t do it justice here.

Yeah, it’s too prevalent. We best not talk about it.

No, we can talk about it - my point was that the conversation is probably more easily had in person or via blogposts where guard-rails can be set so people don’t talk over or past each other. When the topic is so vast, it’s more useful to have specific debate than to have armchair musings back and forth. It’s just more difficult of a conversation to be carried out in the latter form.

First, the obvious lesson: everyone install an ad blocker.

Secondly, my own anecdote: at work I cannot install an ad blocker, nor manage other aspects of being tracked online.

As part of that employment, I recently had to do some research on equity-release products/reverse mortgages. These are products targeted at the elderly.

I am not elderly, despite what my 20 year old sister in-law might say :p

My workplace online advertising experience has now become an endless omnipresent stream of older couples looking wistfully out into the sunset, perhaps on a boat or over an ocean, or smiling lovingly into each others faces in that aspirational retirement way, always with the message: sell us the equity in your home so your life can be like this.

And it's not just instagram. It's following me everywhere.

Anecdote 2:my mother before she died, was basically a paranoid schizophrenic. Imagine, for a second, the subjective experience the internet advertising system has on these people and their families.

I had an eye opening conversation with her a few years ago, where she proclaimed that "they" were watching her through the computer, and she knew because of the coincidences in how the content changed across the internet to target her specifically.

I had the failed experience of trying to explain what was going on, and the observation that, dismally, she was essentially, on some level, right. The ability to make a mentally ill person's ramblings essentially correct is a sobering dystopian realization...

Blocking ads within mobile apps is almost impossible. Try blocking the pre-rolls in Facebook videos on mobile. And you’d need to mitm instagram’s mobile api and modify the api responses to filter out the sponsored ads.

I personally am fine with the inconvenience of using the web browser on mobile, instead of using apps. That way, I have more control (not complete control though) on what information these companies get. I don't think that would work easily with Instagram (which famously doesn't provide a web interface for uploading content and interacting within the platform, AFAIK). But it works with FB (which I reluctantly use for certain purposes to reach certain "for the greater good" audiences), Google products and such. Firefox Focus, private windows and tabs, content blockers — they all help to a good extent in preventing more information from being collected and mined. For all we know, mobile apps that interact with photos on the device are mining metadata even from photos that are not uploaded (from EXIF information) to "provide a better experience for users". When I use a browser, I know for sure that I'm giving the site access only to the photos of my choice and only during the span of time I actually do the act of uploading photos, and not to everything and not at all times while using that platform.

Apps are a lot more convenient, and most users wouldn't do what I do. So this is a compromise of sorts.

How are you supposed to install an ad blocker on an app?

Well, indeed. If you can't find a way to go one-level-up, that is to say, blocking at a router/network, hardware, or OS whitelist/blacklist type situation, i'd respond that the responsible thing to do is to blacklist the app.

I realise of course that not everyone will like that response, but i'd also say as non-flippantly as possible, that mature responsibility is, almost by definition, not participating in things you might otherwise wish to because of higher-order principal-based concerns.

Stop using that app. Stop using ecosystems that allow for it to take it a step further.

Pi-hole (https://pi-hole.net/) might work for some apps.

I'm sure there's... an app for that. ;-)

No, the obvious lesson is to purge the app from your device and stop using services that make you feel like shit.

My biggest takeaway is that people can have vastly different experiences in "the same product". Just as liberal and conservative Facebook users saw very different streams of content and news, men and women.

I don't check Instagram very often anymore but I just logged in now and here are the ads I see:

* Pluralsight - 10 technologies shaking up business Monday.com - visual project management tool

* 241 Atlantic - Brooklyn's newest residential rental development

* Playstation - Monster Hunter World game

* Whichdoor - some kind of rental search engine

* Marvel Strike Force - action RPG game prob on mobile

These ads reflect my interests in tech, business, gaming, and NYC rentals (my lease is up later this year) and are interesting + don't make me feel bad about myself.

But if all the ads I saw were for clothing to "slim your dad bod" or featured really attractive men in skimpy outfits, with the implication that that's how I was supposed to look - I wouldn't like that. I would feel like the world was telling me that my personality, my intelligence, and my creativity didn't matter and that I am only valued for how I look.

That sucks and I think it's understandable that someone wouldn't want to see that. These advertising messages go deep into our psyches.

If you buy any clothing online you'll start getting similar ads as you describe. I regularly get ads for men's underwear, tight-fitting workout clothes, and ads featuring ruggedly handsome 5'11" men with lush, immaculately-groomed beards in well-tailored clothes.

My favorite advertising sequence was on Hulu a couple years ago. First I'm shown an ad for Rogaine. I click "not interested". Then I'm shown an ad for Viagra. I click "not interested". Then I'm shown an ad for Victoria's Secret. I'm male.

It's like some algorithm is going "Balding? Nope, then you must be impotent. Wait, you're not impotent either? You must be a woman."

(Putting on my data-scientist hat, this is actually pretty rational. My actual status is "I'm just not interested in buying things from you", but this is a useless result to an advertiser; as someone not interested in buying things or paying for content, I'm irrelevant, so they can afford to piss me off in the hopes that they'll find someone who is balding/impotent/female and insecure about it, and I'm just a cost of doing business.)

The roughly equally bad take on that sequence is that after confirming you're neither balding nor impotent, it assumed there was someone in your life to purchase Victoria's Secret for.

I am amazed at how incredibly accurate it is.

And they're not just showing a stupid ad. They are giving a major brand name that most males may know.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Nevermind negative body image. I would feel sexually harassed or something for having that many boobs and butts shoved in my face over and over and over. That veers weirdly into soft porn territory. If I want to look at naked bodies all the live long day, fine. But she says I mostly just came here to see pictures of my friends’ dogs and kids. If I were visiting a site to talk to friends about their kids and almost exclusively saw these kinds of ads, I would feel like this would be a bit like leaving a stack of Playboy magazines on the desk of a teacher at an elementary school.

I think it's a matter of differing opinions, I didn't find those ads particularly suggestive. I see people in similar outfits at the gym all the time and for the bra ads there's no good way to sell it without the model being shirtless (and I see people in less at the beach all the time, too).

But when you go to the beach or gym, you know it will be there. When you go to, say, an elementary school or other child oriented environment, you generally don't expect to see it.

There is a difference.

I don't condone these ads. They do look like stalking and harassment. One word I would use to describe these is "crass".

She says "I just mostly came here to see pictures of my friends' dogs and kids", but what she wants from Instagram is different from what Instagram thinks she's interested in.

It's obvious (leaving aside bugs in Instagram) that she has visited other websites to look up information on yoga and also probably on bras, or shown some kind of engagement with these topics in a place where FB/Instagram was watching, so to speak. This is where things become confounding, because the actual sellers of bras and other clothing have decided that they want to target people doing yoga, which is related to general fitness, which is related to feeling comfortable while engaging in fitness related activities, which they also believe is about looking good — it's a broad net that they cast so that they get more people to look at ads and buy their products. The sellers have also decided that these kind of pictures are what help them (oblivious to the actual experiences of those seeing the ads and the consequences). Of course, this seems like the targeting is actually pointless and that they're wasting their money, but this is how a lot of ads work and how a lot of these ad serving products (FB, Insta, Google, etc.) work. They're still not good enough to target people who're more likely to buy, but competition in a specific product/service space makes sellers wanting to grab as much as possible based on ill informed hypotheses of "their target customer is ____, _____, ____".

It's also clear that Instagram and FB working together isn't really that good for the users, and whatever services FB and Instagram use to profile people around the web look shady as well in how and where they collect information and how they use that information to make inferences that are creating such experiences. If it's not bras, it may be lipsticks or moisturizers or slimming products or bags or so many other things that are sold as things that we should aspire for.

This problem is not going anywhere unless people get more educated about online tracking, how to have at least some control over it and also demand more from these companies that provide "things for free".

In this context, this book "The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy" [1] is something more people should read.

[1]: https://www.nostarch.com/smartgirlsguide

>>> She says "I just mostly came here to see pictures of my friends' dogs and kids", but what she wants from Instagram is different from what Instagram thinks she's interested in.

Her eyeballs are a cash machine. Instagram is a eyeballs gathering machine.

While she might think that instagram is about pictures of dogs and kids, it is not.

I think she kind of answered here own question here.

She’s said that she’s purchased yoga equipment and bras in the past, so it makes a lot of sense that she’s seeing these ads

Facebook’s algorithms take a look at all people who buy certain things, and look at similar things they also buy, as well as a host of demographic information to key in on it more

They don’t do a perfect job. Facebook is not nearly as omniscient as people think it is. Trust me, I have some relevant work experience

As for the ads themselves, they’re selling an ideal, not a product. If they ad just had a picture of a bra on a table with nobody wearing it, that ad would be less effective than if someone conventionally attractive was wearing it. That’s not going to change, because it sells more of the product.

As for the body types, I think my sister (an accomplished Nuclear Engineer) put it best. Women often complain that they’re being pushed by advertising to conform to a certain body type. That’s valid. But those same women often then come to the conclusion to shame women who worked hard to have their body look like that.

My sister feels its an attack (attack might be a strong word here) on someone like her, who puts in serious effort to her health and body, in addition to the hard work she does as an engineer and a mother. Why is she the bad guy for putting in effort. Why cant some women have bodies like that, and some not?

Wow, way to dismiss her very valid points. In fact, no, if Instagram and Facebook think this is relevant advertising then they’ve scammed their investors far worse than we thought. And if the ads make the user feel unhappy, then they are really bad and they should do something about them. Finally, please get past the false notion that people with advertising-ideal bodies like your sister are somehow putting in more effort than other people. That’s demonstrably false. And in any case your final question is sort of the point of the post you are trying to dismiss. Why do all the women in those ads have one type of body, when there are so many other types out there?

> Finally, please get past the false notion that people with advertising-ideal bodies like your sister are somehow putting in more effort than other people. That’s demonstrably false.

I put in no effort and thus have a beer gut. Before my metabolism slowed, I was super skinny with no muscle definition. Neither are considered an ideal male physique, but I don’t knock people who work out and have great bodies to show for it. It’s just not terribly important to me.

Your comment sounds very much like the insecurity that the parent was pointing out. I’m with the parent on this. There’s nothing wrong with people who spend time and effort to look physically fit, if that makes them happy. Note that I’m not in support of exploiting people who don’t like the way they look.

How is putting in a ton of time in the gym every day, watching nutrition very closely, giving up drinking/substances that interfere with progression and working towards fitness goals consistently with discipline not putting in more work than other people? If his sister is doing these things, then she is putting in more work than most people and that’s why she probably looks good and she deserves to be commended.

Nothing you said makes a whole lot of sense. It seems like you wrote your post out of anger more than anything else.

if the ads make the user feel unhappy, then they are really bad

Are they "bad" by advertising standards, though? The history of advertising is a history of preying on people's insecurities.

Indeed, this is essentially the core purpose of advertising: deception and the exploitation of insecurities.

To those of you who work in this field, I urge you to consider your actions and to exercise integrity in your work.

I'm not one to make sweeping judgments, but I must admit that, personally, I sometimes find it difficult to understand how some people in the field of marketing can do what they do with a clean conscience.

There is big billboard outside my work ( and all over Chicago) that says " ulchaer tackles balding" with before and after. Before urlacher look some what like me :d. It's not specific to digital marketing .

Some ppl might be triggered when they see a billboard for an expensive car that you can't afford.

As a user, I can't think of any ads that would make me happy.

As an unattractive person, I wouldn't want to see unattractive people in ads either. Seeing fat people wouldn't make me happier.

(Why was this thread collapsed?)

Notice how you equate fat with unattractive?

Yes because fat people are physically unattractive. Not only are they unattractive aesthetically, it’s just unhealthy and that’s far more of a factor in my opinion.

My biological instinct is to find a mate who has the highest probability of successfully reproducing. So even in this regard, someone healthy fits the bill over someone unhealthy any day. Healthy people live longer, are able to more successfully reproduce and have less complications in general.

Now should fat people in society be treated worse in terms of the opportunities they have? Absolutely not. But should society reward people for being fat? In my opinion, no, not explicitly.

Being unhealthily fat is just as abnormal as being unhealthyily skinny. Normalizing either is probably misguided at best.

> Yes because fat people are physically unattractive. Not only are they unattractive aesthetically, it’s just unhealthy and that’s far more of a factor in my opinion.

I think you’re wrong; bigger folks can totally be attractive. That they are unattractive to you is different.

We can go back and forth on the aesthetics, but the health aspects are what ground us in natural reality and are probably why the norms played out like they did.

Again, representing the extremes as norms is not great - I think we can both agree on this point at least. But if there was an ideal that I would rather society value - it would definitely err on the side of healthy and fit.

Skinny doesn’t equal healthy and fit and most of the models you see on ads like this aren’t exactly healthy! Yeah, they watch their intake and work out a lot, but taking anabolic steroids/insulin/growth hormone/you name it and/or reducing your intake to something unmaintanable per day doesn’t exactly lead to a long life.

Also, many women have to work much harder than men to stay on the skinny side because they store fat easier. A 5’1” 110 lb woman with 18% body fat would need to eat 1500 cal/day to maintain that weight. That’s practically nothing! It’s harder still if you were raised in a family that encouraged overeating (several reasons behind this).

Then there’s the double standard that exists in many relationships where the woman needs to be “healthy and fit” at all times while the man can treat his body however he wants because practically nobody cares about an out-of-shape looking man.

I say look however you want and weigh however much you feel comfortable with. One life to live and all.

I completely agree with you on all counts actually! I don't think "skinny" is the goal to aim for either and isn't attractive to me personally on either gender. But by that definition "Fat" is an extreme too. I think we both might just be arguing semantics at this point.

In any case, I mostly agree with everything you've written.


> are probably why the norms played out like they did.

Cheap food is why the norms played out like they did. In places with less easy access to calories, fat is considered beautiful and thin ugly.

I think you raise a very valid point and there are a probably ton of other factors that I’m not even aware of that go into this.

I’ll throw another othrogonal point into the mix: our definitions of “skinny” and “fat” are probably very different and very relative to our realities.

Anyway, I don’t claim to have the answers - it gets really messy to articulate the big question of “how do values form”.

Fat people are unattractive. I am fat and I am physically unattractive because of that. Thinking otherwise would be fooling myself.

Being attracted to fat people is a kink, not the norm.

I'm not attracted to fat people. I'm attracted to attractive people. And there are, amazingly, attractive fat people, despite the cultural norm we've internalized.

I said PHYSICALLY attractive.

In different times and in different cultures, fat people have been considered physically attractive and thinner/slimmer people considered unattractive. Now we live in a globalized world where many aspirations are sold wholesale across cultures and acceptance is manufactured to make it look like the norm.

And I still assert it's a cultural norm that barrages of advertisement like this reinforce.

> Being attracted to fat people is a kink, not the norm.

Norms of attractiveness are social constructs that demonstrably change over time.

Not waging genocide on fit models as far as I can tell. Critiquing the bland predictability of advertising, including its use of fit models, and the demoralizing effects of a massive, relentless torrent of poorly-targeted ads you can't stop, yes.

There's nothing here that can't be hung on a pre-existing hook of "advertising sucks" (for many reasons including shallowness and sexism) and/or "Instagram sucks" (due to its being an ad platform masquerading as a "social" "sharing" "platform"). But you can also add the bluntness of their ad targeting algorithm to the list. It sucks. "She ordered yoga pants once... TURN THE YOGA FIREHOSE ON HER!"

I think everybody here including the author knows why she's seeing the ads. Likewise "They don't do a perfect job" and Facebook's non-omniscience, are pretty obvious too. But it's worse than doing an imperfect job; it's idiotic and self-defeating for both the ad broker (Facebook/Instagram) and the advertiser. She is never going to respond to any of those ads. Even less so, the more they make her feel like nothing more than a place where leggings and bras go, that has money in it. Though I guess neither the broker nor the advertiser cares about responses, only viewings.

Oh no... a woman has purchased a bra before. Stop the presses. That must mean every ad she sees should just be barely clothed women.

> there isn’t really a way to opt out of it.

Yes there is: don't use Facebook or Instagram.

I see little value in being surprised that a surveillance based advertising platform does indeed surveil and advertise at you. That's what these things are built to do.

Regardless of whether the ads are repetitive or not, why pollute your life with advertising in the first place? Reduce your exposure to advertising pollution and you really will feel better. That's what I do.

Don't forget, opt out of everything else too. Your buying choices are tracked in so many different ways, should we just give up and sign off, run off to the country and not buy anything on or offline? Of course not, but saying "well duh, logout" isn't identifying the true problem.

The content of the ads in the example are questionable in context. It's not that she or we're being tracked, it's the psychological triggers used to shame or bait people.

> Don't forget, opt out of everything else too.

I don't forget. I pay cash whenever possible, I don't join so-called "loyalty" programs, I don't give out my number or email address to businesses freely, etc. The world is a hostile place and you must always guard against the exploitation of your data. I wish this was a paranoid perspective but it has sadly become a pragmatic one. It's unfortunate that this is the world we've built for ourselves.

> it's the psychological triggers used to shame or bait people

Made more possible and better targeted through tracking. These days it's simply good computer hygiene to install a blocker in your browser (such as uBlock Origin) and to also turn on your browser's built-in tracking protection if it has it (like Firefox does: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/tracking-protection).

I feel happy when I read comments like this and see that there are many people who think this way. I've started the move to using more cash myself, and one of the triggers was this Aeon article titled "In praise of cash" that impressed me and influenced me. [1] As a strong pro-privacy advocate in my circles, I also feel the despair that comes when I see that most people don't understand or don't care much, which (I believe) is a detriment to humanity as a whole.

[1]: https://aeon.co/essays/if-plastic-replaces-cash-much-that-is...

If you're not paying, you're the product.

How this caches out is that you will never be served the ads that are best for you. Instead, you'll be shown whatever the most expensive targeting options are for you, given the information the advertising platform knows about you. In this case, since you buy bras, it's ads for bras. Visit a coding bootcamp website and get tracked and you'll get ads for coding bootcamps - even if you're currently attending the bootcamp you're getting advertised for.

Practical advice: start doing a lot of online web shopping and trackable stuff for mattresses. You'll probably get ads for mattresses instead. "Interested in buying a mattress" is a very high-value category for marketers to target.

I can validate and top the mattress thing. I get ads for expensive cruise ship voyages most of the time ($25K for two portholes looking out at Antarctica for two weeks, per person; one can dream). Practically speaking, do a decent research session on something that presses pleasant buttons. Of course, if a California King pillow-top mattress is your thing, then go (search) for it (they are nice).

Why haven't advertisers noticed this is why we install blockers?

Deep-tracking, ultra-personalisation ending in creepy ads were bad enough. But the flip-side is if there's only one industry interested in your activities, you only see those ads, whatever you're looking at.

Lets go back to the 2000s, where ads targeted content, not users.

Before you start fretting about CTRs, you can't click what you don't see. That's the hole advertisers need to dig themselves out of. And even before ad-blockers ruled supreme, targeted advertising was sold to publishers as a way of increasing CPM. Truth is payouts have been in free-fall since online advertising began.

> Why haven't advertisers noticed this is why we install blockers?

Maybe because not enough people install blockers for it to matter.

The suicide rate for teens, especially teen girls, has risen along with the explosion in social media https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/03/health/teen-suicide-cdc-study....

Instinctively, above cyber bullying and public body shaming, it is these kind of ad / algo quirks that would seem like a key contributing factor. As the author points out, the constant barrage can't help but make you consider your own body.

> the constant barrage can‘t help but make you consider your own body.

Apart from the method of using ads and tracking, which I despise, I wonder if this is actually such a bad thing - at least in this particular case: If you aren‘t satisfied with your body there are ways to change that - eating healthy, being active. Of course, that‘s a whole different discussion. I‘m simply wondering if someone should be offended if confronted with healthy and fit people.

Or put differently: Would you complain about ads that show people succesful in their career? A status that is probably harder to achieve and than being fit.

Sure, something leading to cyberbullying and girls committing suicides is obviously a very, very bad thing along with objectification. Many people are not even in control over their health and body for physical, psychological or social reasons. "Successful in their career" doesn't work the same way, it is a bad analogy. For one, this doesn't influence kids/teens, career success is all about grownups and doesn't degrade people to mere objects.

Some thoughts:

- How many people are really not in control of their health and body? Sure, there are physical exceptions and I‘m not saying it‘s easy, but is it really common that eating healthy and living an active lifestyle is prevented by psychological and social reasons? And if so, isn‘t that an excuse for missing pretty much any goal that requires to overcome some barriers?

- With cyberbullying, suicide and objectification you‘re throwing terms into the discussion that are a major escalation of the ads in question. I don‘t necessarily make that connection or at least think that it‘s a very subjective one and in my opinion those issues rather require work on a personal, individual level for those affected. However, that’s a different discussion.

- Wouldn‘t you agree that one‘s career and professional status is very much related to the perceived self-worth? How is that not relevant to teenagers that are about to start their careers, whether it‘s a high paying tech job or being a cashier at Walmart, very soon. Considering one‘s career options doesn‘t require to already have one - it also applies to future prospects - or lack thereof. And even then grownups aren‘t immune to these considerations and their effects.

I don't know if it would work for instagram, but I habitually block brand accounts on twitter if they promote tweets to me. I can't quantify it, but I feel like I don't see as many ads on twitter as I used to.


One of my goals in 2018 is to see fewer ads. For Twitter, that means using a dedicated app (Tweetbot) that doesn't display any ads. I looked into similar applications for Instagram, but it appears they shut down their feed APIs two years ago.

However, I just discovered that the Instagram website doesn't show sponsored posts. I'm not sure if has something to do with my setup, but I just scrolled through the last hundred photos and didn't see a single ad. It looks great and functions just like the mobile app. The icon is even the same! Just go to instagram.com on your phone and sign in.

this is a good tip for any of Facebook's products... Mobile site > native app.

The mobile sites usually support the features you're actually trying to use, are faster, have fewer privacy implications, and don't kill your phone's battery.

Another advantage of the mobile Facebook site for iOS is that you can use an ad blocker plug in Safari.

I would suggest that you also install and use ad blockers. Every user who does that sends a signal across that it's unacceptable (the entire tracking, profiling, sending malware, etc.). We need more people to do this because it's clear that the ad industry and the conduits don't care enough.

Are there common domains to Instagram sponsored posts? I'm wondering if blocking DNS on routers / devices would give some temporary relief for this situation.

I'm sorry that you're being bombarded with this, it'd be nice if Facebook provided topic blocking for ads beyond alcohol and parenting.

I believe this highlights a problem with the web in general: ads are a blight and should be excised from it entirely.

If some ad-supported sites have to go under, well, that's just the cost of social progress.

I think you are really underestimating how much the internet is paid from ads

Well, if they're so insignificant, why all the fuss every time someone suggests getting getting rid of them?

Hackernews would probably be among them. Don't forget there's always a job ad on the front page for a YC company.

In that event, I am certain that I could find another place to read about javascript frameworks and watch people misuse the phrase a priori.

The people who come to HN are what's valuable to me, not the specific web property.

What about highway Billboards, how can we bring progress there?

Different business models and different focus.

In the US, billboards are banned in four American states (Vermont, Maine, Alaska and Hawaii) and various other counties or cities. Generally speaking, these are places that put high value on tourism driven by natural beauty (which, of course, roadside billboards tend to undermine).

In photo sharing communities where there is less focus on the "social" aspects, ads are often less of a problem. From what I see, for instance, Instagram is not used as a primary resource by a lot by professional / semi-pro photographers. Many of them build online portfolios to catalog their work, and I imagine most photographers would not be terribly thrilled to see bra ads or any other ads being inserted into their portfolio of works. So these people more go to sites like Smugmug and Zenfolio. Which as far as I know is ad-free, but also isn't zero cost to set up either.

Intrusive, often creepily-targeted advertising seems to be the norm now for any large social-focused Internet business. It's what keeps things "free". The question, I guess, is what is a good alternative model? Something has to pay for the server / bandwidth costs and upkeep. Coming up with a better business model (or at least one that focuses on different values, such as the atypical billboard bans) is the only real way to "get rid of the ads".

Join the Billboard Liberation Front:


Their website could use some work so maybe that'd be a good way to contribute.

Far less intrusive.

There's that one city in Brazil that did away with them...

> Far less intrusive.

Then you must not have yet had the pleasure of being exposed to the massive, blindingly-bright displays playing animated ads near many major cities.

I almost had an accident when the ancient “Budweiser” sign on I94 near Armitage in Chicago was replaced with an 80-foot electronic billboard.

It was a darkish night, and while I was looking the board board switched to an ad with a mostly-white background. It was like looking into 1000 suns. I was temporarily blinded with those purple spots in my vision and actually rolled onto the shoulder near the wall before recovering.

Not sure. What's your point?

As much as I'd like to turn this into social commentary about the patriarchy, this is the result of women like her buying these items. The return on investment for bra ads to her cohort is superior to other ads, so that's what they see.

It's the same problem with click bait, tv, news, nigerian scams, penis enhancement drugs, etc. Unfortunately this comes down to a 'blame the people' - or at least our psychological weaknesses.

it's the thing modern consumerism is best at - optimising for what we want, despite what we tell ourselves about what we want. Oftentimes that results in tapping into reward system hacks like chained clickbait articles or "get X quick" products.

devils advocate, but what’s so wrong about this? why is it a corporations fault if you feel insecure about yourself? if you’re unhappy you’re the only one who can chance that, why complain to a corporation to fix your insecurities by avoiding them?

I'm thinking of an analogy, maybe it isn't a good one, but it's if you're trying to quit smoking, and somebody is deliberately applying stresses to you, that are known to be associated with the desire to smoke.

I don't think it's OK for anybody -- corporation or otherwise -- to saturate me with messages that are tailored to my psychological characteristics that are only partially under my own control.

It's not as if the advertisers are blind to the your insecurities. They are targeting your insecurity with ads.

I should know. Worked for a small agency. First did print ads. Then specialized in PPC. Find the thing that keeps your target market up at night. That's what gets them to click. When I ran campaigns for "wellness" companies (which were scammy to begin with), the "stay healthy" angle never worked. The ads that performed the best were the ones that made the user feel anxious: Feeling tired? Weak? Gaining weight? Looking older? That sort of thing.

Think about that for a second. Is that nice? To intentionally make someone feel bad about themselves, to sell them something? Of course not.

Is it legal? Yeah. Should it be? Probably. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Unfortunately, that's not the win-at-all-cost mentality of business.

Allowing opting out of “interest based” (aka surveillance based) advertising would be good regulation.

If I could pay to use Instagram without ads, I would do it in a heartbeat. I used to pay for Flickr pro but now all the cool kids are on Instagram so I post there. I cannot identify a single time in my life when I have been happy to see an ad. Why is there no option to pay for Instagram?

Facebook’s ARPU is about $20 per year from financial releases last year.

However, people who would pay to block ads probably are in a demographic that makes significantly more ARPU for Facebook; possibly 3-4 times.

I know Google’s ARPU off me (prior to installing an ad blocker) is in the $100s per year (calculated by an extension that looks at your search terms, what ads you click on, and how much they cost). I don’t think I’ll pay a few hundreds a year for Google.

I suspect that ads like this will show regardless whether she's using Instagram or some other website.

For example, while at work, I searched for some documentation on syslog-ng. After that, page ads on multiple websites would refer to syslog.

Strange, I find the ads instagram decides to show to me extremely on point and highly interesting. And I can easily see how they did it, since I keep clicking and liking pictures that are very well tagged.

What is your experience?

Report every “sponsored” shit content as spam, sexually inappropriate, inciting violence, etc. Just do it. If enough people do it, these assholes are going to feel it. Do it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

They did feel it. Last year this strategy worked and I didn’t see any ads at all. Until about 3 months ago. I actually think those buttons do nothing now, or your account’s reports are thrown away because I get a ton of ads, and they don’t change.

It might also get you flagged…

It’s a question of volume. If enough people do it, they can’t flag all accounts because then no real reporting will be possible.

Or they'll begin to ignore your reports.

Seriously what is the deal with the avocados and limes? Were those toasts procedurally generated?

They make for an aesthetically pleasing picture as long as you don’t think about actually eating avocado skins.

Or big chunks of lime.

Lauren needs to get an ad blocker asap. Or not use Instagram. Seriously, what else can one expect from ads? A good experience? That's fucking delusional.

Can't ad-block an instagram app, and she uses Instagram to stay in touch with friends/family. Not that easy of a problem to solve.

She can use the website version to read her feed or use a DNS resolver that blocks ad domains. If her primary purpose is to stay in touch with friends and family, there are also plenty of other apps for that.

The author is misdirected. This isn't really an Instagram problem. Instagram didn't make the ads. The advertisers did. If the ad is successful, it continues. If it is unsuccessful, it is removed. Clearly, these are the successful ads. The fact that author is triggered by them seems to indicate the problem is with the author, not the ads.

The vast majority of users have no problems with the ads, or the ads would change. The vast majority don't write 5 pages of medium.com screed about the ads. The vast majority are imagining themselves as the woman in the ad and buying the products. That is simply how the algorithm works.

The nice thing about the internet is everyone can have their say. The less nice thing about the internet is that includes everyone, including people with serious mental issues. Articles like this one, or infowars, or any other sort of militant fringe generally attracts more of the same sort of voices. It makes the fringe seem legitimate, because there's a balance of for and against in the discussion.

The vast majority disagrees with the author. That's how the algorithm works.

Wasn't the internet supposed to liberate us from one size fits all cultural norms?

The author isn't asking for a ban on bra ads; she just wants to be able to control her feed and see ads that are more relevant to her life. She is trying to have a conversation about the stereotypes that the advertisers are using but neither the advertisers nor the channel appear to be interested.

I'm reminded of the Cluetrain Manifesto [1] and it's successes and failures in the current context.

1. http://www.cluetrain.com/

For apps where an ad blocker doesn't work, I tend to click on ads that I want to see in the future. This means someone is paying for my clicks even when I go back immediately instead of reading the content, but at least this leads to less annoying ads in the future.

Well that’s advertising for you.

I once did research on some garbage removal services on Google. Months after that, on any device that didn't have adblock and was logged into same Google account, I've got garbage ads (literally in this case). That's how their targeting works, as it seems - which is also quite stupid since I didn't need the service once I used it, certainly not for a long time afterwards, and if I'll need it again, I'd have long forgotten the ads they have shown me back then.

I hate how laser focused ads can be. I don't know what I talked about but almost all of my mobile Gmail ads are about meeting mature singles. Which makes no sense because I'm an immature spouse.

Similar issues with alcohol if you've gotten slated into the algorithmic 'finer things club'. Non stop booze ads. Not all of us appreciate, or are okay with/at drinking.

The problem is not with instagram but with capitalism. Capitalism is a system designed to optimize for profit, so the only advertisers that want to target you are advertisers who can profit from those ads. Vices make profit, insecurity makes profit, promoting positive mental health does not make profit.

In time we'll look back on this wild west of social media consumption just like how we look back on smoking. This stuff needs to be regulated.

Socialism would not solve this "problem". It's still profit seeking.

Communism is also a profit seeking system -- just one where the everyday person no longer has the ability to make profit and only the leaders are the ones seeking profit. It may solve this bra problem, but will lead to other ones.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If Insta offered an ad free option for $10/month I wonder if the author would pay for it.

Evidently it's working on SOME front or they'd be putting more profitable ads in.

Still brings up the question of whether the extra revenue is worth annoying part of your user base - but from my experience I'll only ever see 1-2 ads even if I scroll for 5-10 minutes.

I don't think "annoying" is quite the right word to summarize this blog post. Sure, ads are often annoying, but the point she was trying to make is that this pattern is somewhat harmful.

Displaying pictures of healthy, fit women in advertising is not harmful, nor does the author actually make that point. All she does is say that it's true, without any argument to back it up. We're simply supposed to accept that because she says it's harmful, it is. There's nothing degrading or overly sexualized about these ads. The fact that the models look good does not need to be a threat to anybody.

I was with the author as long as it was a complaint about how repetitive and uninspired the ads were, but when it morphed into "pictures of healthy people trigger me" is where she lost me. If you are so insecure you can't see an image of a person who is better looking than you are without freaking out, that is nobody's problem but your own. It's not instagram's fault.

There are many other potential body shapes that are healthy and fit. The point is that for most people, the idealized, photoshopped shapes in these ads are actually literally unobtainable. Only a very small percentage of the population can ever achieve these shapes, for a very few years of their lives, and under very specific conditions. And when your media is saturated with only those images of impossible bodies, and the implication that this is the ideal that everyone should meet, even though that’s impossible, then it becomes a problem.

Sure, but in the same breath I'm never going to meet the ideal set by the athletes in Gatorade commercials, the men in car, cologne and watch ads, and certainly the spokespeople in gym and fitness commercials.

I will only speak to my experience but I'm not bothered by it. I think because my self-worth doesn't hinge on feeling attractive -- I think I should consider myself extremely fortunate in that respect. But putting ugly people in ads seems to be nothing more a band-aid fix for the problem that a womans's worth is largely determined by her appearance.

None of the women I saw in those pictures seem to have particularly unattainable or exaggerated physiques. In fact, they look like average, healthy body types easily attainable by regular diet and exercise.

Claiming that "only a very small percentage of the population can ever achieve these shapes" smacks as totally false to me. Do you have any data or sources to back that up?

edit: Would the downvoters care to contribute? I asked for some data or, at the very least, some sound reasoning for the claim that it's literally impossible for the majority of people to have healthy physiques.

They are better than average. Unless the average is only considering the population of 20-30 years old women, in good shape, wearing tight clothes, posing for a photo in a nice scenery.

Ironically, Instagram has good filters and beautify mode to make good looking pictures like that.

Speaking from the perspective of the company posting the ads. Not trying to argue whether it is 'harmful' or not

That's how targeted ads work - if you bought a product in the past, you must be interested in buying the same type of products, every week, forever, and you'll be interested in seeing ads for these products.

And it works extremely well. That’s why, thanks to Amazon ads, I’ve bought 14 vacuums in the last two months.


I really wish the algorithms were smart enough to distinguish between things that you might rebuy frequently (bras are closer to this end) and things that you probably won’t buy again for a long time (like vacuums).

From my experience (engineer at ad retargeting company) the models used for retargeting are very advanced/optimized. They're shown repeatedly because the data suggests that it IS the optimal policy despite the reaction people have to it.

I wonder if they take into account that you made the purchase, or even know about it. If you consider that the only information they have is that you were looking for the product, but may or may not have bought one (or may have returned the one you bought), then their strategy starts making sense.

Here's the solution: get off of Instagram. Ask yourself: does it provide any real value in your life? If the answer is no, just delete the app and get on with your life.

The secret is to not let them create an accurate profile in the first place.

I think this line of reasoning is victim blaming. It’s not the author’s fault that Instagram works the way it works. I think she’s entitled to want them to do a better job.

I don't disagree that this type of advertising is unsavory, but I do think it is a bit simplistic to call people like the author victims of evil oppressive Instagram and call it a day.

I notice that in today's society people make an awful lot of demands on the services and apps they use, while not directly paying for hardly any of what they consume.

Facebook/Instagram definitely has a lot more power than any individual user, but it doesn't have more power than all of its users. If people were offended enough to actually walk away from the platform en masse, I bet we would see substantial reform pretty quickly.

The "if you don't like it, leave" argument is cruel when applied to cities, countries, or essential services, but I think it is pretty fair when we are talking about totally superfluous apps that don't even cost anything.

She's consuming free computing resources in exchange for the implied social contract of having ads presented to her. If she doesn't like that, she has to find a way to subvert that contract or stop using free services. She'd have more of a leg to stand on if she was a customer of Instagram.

So really, there's no way to block ads?

I don't know of any straightforward (i.e. that does not require root access) way to block the ads in the Instagram app. I would guess that this is why they push the app so hard (as with Twitter).

Apps are one of the main reasons why I refuse to use smartphones. They're broken-by-design, from user perspective.

So how come there aren't uber-apps (ha ha) that can spoof apps, looking to servers like real apps, but protecting users?

So how come there aren't uber-apps (ha ha) that can spoof apps, looking to servers like real apps, but protecting users?

Well there are such things, but due to the security model they typically require root access. This is not great because rooting your phone makes it much more insecure.

The other option would be to implement an alternative Instagram app that does not show ads. I assume that Instagram has various measures in place that preclude this.

I was imagining more like "alternative Instagram app". Maybe more like a browser with macro capabilities. But obviously, Instagram would try to block it.

Why not just use a browser with an ad blocker?

Why not just use a browser with an ad blocker?

That's a viable option indeed. I don't do that because the Instagram mobile website is significantly less nice than the app-each tab of the app is a separate web page that loads fairly slowly for instance. So in the end, I use the app, report the ads I see as not relevant, and suck it up. I usually only see one ad per day so it's not the end of the world.

Bra-free? I hoped we would finally be able to see titties... Very disappointed

We've banned this account for repeatedly posting uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments to Hacker News. That's the opposite of what this site is for.

If you don't want to be banned on HN, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.


Try to use average women (and men) to see how many bras you are going to sell :)

Well, it’s easy. Don’t use Instagram.

Why are hackers so all-or-nothing when it comes to customer feedback? Either you like everything about a product or you don’t use it. There’s no room for complaints or other feedback about something a person likes overall but doesn’t find to be perfect?

Maybe some people actually agree with the sentiment of the article but are disappointed that no one takes any real action.

Almost everyone I know hates these kinds of ads and the way social media uses our information, but all they do to combat it is write blog posts and comments about how they wish it were different.

I think its pretty clear at this point that nothing is going to change if all we do is talk. Facebook knows that a bunch of blog posts are really no threat to its bottom line. So I think its not unreasonable to ask why people are unwilling to boycott services that they criticize so harshly.

Maybe because boycotting is the only real power consumers have in our economy? Sure, there's room for complaints for people that don't mind wasting their time on futile acts that change nothing.

Power can be exercised without actually performing the act that gives you power. For example, if I have a gun pointed at you and I request your wallet, that request has power even if I don't actually shoot you.

Maybe OP is making a value judgement on instagram? Maybe OP already decided that instagram's soul is not salvageable, and that they will always push advertisement that puts their profits and revenues before the preferences (and comfort and perhaps health) of the user.

Maybe the parts of the system (perhaps even the entire system) are so broken, yet also strangely voluntary (in particular ways... shadow profile aside) that we might owe it to ourselves to extract ourselves from it as best as can?

I see no indication of this whatsoever. This article reads like a plea for improvement to a service she mostly enjoys.

Oh I agree. I was trying to answer to why some people respond in such an all or nothing manner bout stuff like this. Some people may have already made up their minds about what role entities like fb/instagram should have (ie none), and will take any opening to try to propagate that belief.

Or maybe it's just being lazy. Or both.

Oh, I think I get what you mean now. I misunderstood "OP." You're saying, maybe the commenter I replied to has decided that this service is completely worthless, to the point that they can't understand why someone would still put up with it? I could see that being the case, although I think that's just a special case of the phenomenon I'm talking about.

I assumed it's motivated by her interest in having Instagram (or similar competing organizations) contemplate the value of an 'agile' data analysis pipeline, which her employer conveniently provides.

And the same people will get upset if you don't make a bug report somewhere.

Feedbacks important whether it's code or just experience.


Because we’re on Hacker News making that kind of the default assumption, and it’s an attitude I’ve seen from hackers far and wide.

A fair assumption for sure, but HN will let just about anyone wander in without checking credentials. OTOH, personal experience says that lack of experience is often the root cause of thinking statements such as “just don’t use it” are at all helpful to the conversation. Often it is innocent, like the college hire I worked with at Microsoft who was complaining about a big customer still a version or two behind current Windows. “Why don’t they just upgrade?”

“Ever roll out an OS upgrade to 10K seats? Well, when you do, you’ll realize why they don’t ‘just upgrade’.” It was an innocent question, but revealed a lot of inexperience, and IMO, empathy.

But a lot of times it seem Mr. Grumpy Pants forgets exactly why they’re writing code in the first place, and laying the onus on the user is a demonstration of that.

I'm not sure which was worse, your or his comment.

Meh, to me that was the charitable interpretation, as time and experience can fix it. I’d rather not think that such a statement comes from a professional adult writing software for end users.

I think the problem is that such statements (and worse) do come from professional adults. So I find assuming such views come from people with just enough wherewithal to type out a comment to be a) pointlessly hostile and b) a distraction from the troubling reality.

Mark your calendars, kids, because someone on the internet just got their mind changed. Specifically the b) part, in that my thinking leaves a big blnd spot to reality. The a) part, meh, not so much, but it gives me words for consideration.

Instagram is a great product in my opinion and the OP seems to like it to. She just wants a way to tailor the Ads experience so that she doesn’t have to keep seeing things she’s not interested in.

Why would you suggest that she leave Instagram? That’s silly. Rather, hopefully this gets enough discussion so that Instagram makes a change that gives the user a bit more control.

And don’t bother with the “But you can email your friends photos!” - that’s equally silly and just makes people who suggest that look incredibly out of touch.

What if you actually want to view the content on Instagram? There’s a ton of it, much of which is only available there.

The author isn’t saying they don’t want ANY ads, they just don’t want these specific and unnecessarily sexualized ads to be a huge chunk of the ads they see.

That seems totally reasonable.

I mean if every other add in a normal woman’s magazine was in almost completely undressed woman do you think they WOULDN’T get complaints from their readers?

If huge percentage of the ads that men saw on Instagram were extremely tight speedo’s being worn by models do you think they wouldn’t hear complaints?

This seems entirely reasonable.

Why does it have to be all or nothing? She likes the product, she just doesn't like the bra ads.

Then she doesn't like the product.

If you're not paying for it, you are the product. You are a faceless, nameless consumer #320981093, with preference code hash #AB7ZXJAL. We have determined that, when lumped into this preference code, you have a click-through advertising rate of XY% on said preference hash. We sell this, and you.

Your 'triggering' doesn't matter, neither does your mental health - we don't care about either because, again, you are the product.

If you get depressed about this enough for our algorithm to detect, you will be moved to preference hash #WNXI802N, which will include advertisements for antidepressants and churches into your mainly bra-based advertising stream. There is a delta of ZA% in your net worth to us, because your click-through rate is now BC% {higher or lower}.

This data is aggregated again and incorporated into our quarterly financial statements. Thank you for being a part of The Machine.

This is so silly. That’s all I have to say.

So you’re telling me that because I pay for Coca Cola - that somehow makes it a more noble and more pure product than Instagram?

Have you considered that perhaps I don’t mind “being the product” in exchange for a platform where I can share photos with the world that I’m proud of and follow some cool people relevant to my interests?

Have you considered that perhaps there are trade offs involved, and that just because you’re not OK with them doesn’t mean that somehow I’m not as “enlightened” as you are?

Look, social media is not all good and it’s not all bad. Like most things, it’s in large part what you make it (sure there’s nuance around this - but I’m gonna keep it short). You can definitely abuse it and it’s easy to do, but it’s also possible to use it in a way that is a net positive to your life. Social media is many things to many people so don’t project your unhappiness with the way you use the product onto other people.

We have a diverse audience, and I should have been clearer that it was sarcasm - perhaps it doesn't translate if English is not a native language.

Let's step through it: The original post lamented the ads, and mentioned their negative effects specifically. It also mentioned the positive aspects: being able to get photos from friends/family.

My post is clearly sarcasm - what would the point I'm trying to make be? We can ask ourselves about almost anything that is written, it's a good trick when trying to understand something (you might remember this from grade school).

That Instagram/Facebook don't care about the potentially deleterious effect of your usage of the platform. It's a statement about how the negative effects of the platform don't effect the platform.

I never talked about my own enlightenment with regards to social media, although I have considered the tradeoffs. It's amazing - apparently people were unable to share photos with their friends/family on the Internet before Instagram (...more sarcasm, which I feel the need to clearly highlight, now).

The product does make people unhappy, and it does have an effect on people's well-being - that's what the article is about, and a theme that has been more and more discussed about Silicon Valley/Tech in general. It is topical, relevant, and uses sarcasm to indicate an indifference in social media companies because they can 'sell you' no matter what the preferences are.

It was written with Orwellian language on purpose - although that's another cultural reference that might not transfer.

I will be clearer in the future and try to abstain from assumed background in cultural references, although I think this makes a language like English less beautiful, honestly.

English is my native language, but sometimes on HN it’s impossible to tell if someone really believes stuff like that or if they’re being sarcastic.

It’s a weird mix of people here. Some people on HN genuinely suggest in some of these threads that I should talk to my mom over IRC rather than using a messenger.

She's says she's mostly there to connect with friends. If you want to connect with friends, you go to the platforms they use because they use them. Boycotting the platform can do genuine harm to the friendship.

When social connection is a primary motivator, solutions like "just don't use X if you are not 100% happy with it" basically throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I don't have that problem. A model's job is to look good in photographs, my job is to create computer programs. I'm good at my job, somebody else is good at their job. I don't see this as a personal failure or even irritation that I'm not good at all possible jobs in the world.

You sound not entirely unlike someone who gets to sleep at night by telling themselves they only designed them guidance system for a missile, or the fuse for a mine. Hopefully it’s that... the alternative is the absence of a conscience.

I don't think seeing ads that make you feel bad is equal to stepping on a landmine. And I don't work in advertising industry, I hate it with a passion.

It’s definitely not equivalent, but the coping mechanism and means of dissipating personal responsibility are identical.

I think you're making too many wild assumptions here, I don't need to "cope" with anything here and I'm definitely not responsible for the content of ads a large company whose services I don't use serves.

I can't believe people get offended over ads on a free product. Don't use the product if the ads upset you so much or just block them.

Why care this much? They are ads, we all know why they are there and what they are suppose to do. So why are we acting like they are some mind manipulating images. I could understand the confusion if the writer was an 8 year old girl.

The reason these ads use skinny people, is the same reason why people dress up nicely for a job interview.

It’s not about being offended. If that’s what you got out of it, you are missing the point. The author even wrote that there’s an option to report an ad as offensive but she chose not to use it because she wasn’t offended.

Clearly the author is comfortable with her body and sexuality enough to not find these images and ads offensive per se, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with them and the industry that pushes them.

I’ll go do far as to say people thinking the way you do is the reason these exist. I can just see a timid voice at a meeting about ad content venturing “what if people find these intrusive, creepy, or esteem damaging?” And a brusque and carefree reply from the loud alpha male in the room “psssh it’s 2017! I can’t believe people get offended over an ad! But ok, well just add an “hide because it’s offensive” link and we’re good.”

Well advertisers push these ads cause they work. It's not like they would keep pushing the same ads if they didn't sell anything.

nukeop 10 months ago [flagged]

So some woman is sad ("triggered") because she doesn't look like a model from an ad on Instagram. How is this relevant to Hacker news?

Maybe the message is that uBlock origin should be installed by default on every browser?

I don't think it's "some woman" who was triggered here. The article is intellectually interesting and therefore clearly on topic for Hacker News. It takes a path through some provocative material, of course, but hardly gratuitously.

Meanwhile, your comment violates the site guidelines, first by crossing into personal attack, and second by failing to do this: "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize." And I'm sorry to see that you've been violating the site rules quite a bit, already. We eventually ban accounts that do this, so please read the rules and take the spirit of this site to heart. That means civil, substantive comments only, and no more rants or flamebait.


Not defending the gp's harsh tone, but there's nothing particularly interesting about this post. We all know how ad algorithms are stupidly repetitive and how ads only show attractive people. This is just flamebait.

But we don't all realize the effect this shit is having. And if we did, we wouldn't be reacting so non-chalant about it. I think it's an interesting post, and it's a more nuanced criticism than just "too many repetitive ads with attractive people."

nukeop 10 months ago [flagged]

So what is the strongest plausible interpretation here? Because the article is full of body image issues and being jealous that somebody else in the ads looks better.

So let’s take away the sexualized imagery aspect.

If huge percentage of the ads you saw on Instagram were pictures of legs with varicose veins advertising some sort of treatment… would you want to see that all the time? Wouldn’t you start to get annoyed and grossed out that they keep shoving that in your face when you’re trying to look at pictures of cats/cars/landscapes/buildings/whatever?

The author doesn’t seem to be complaining the ads exist, they seem to be complaining about the quantity/frequency of that kind of imagery.

It's food for thought if you work in ad tech. Targeting based on tags/interests can be effective, but understanding the visual content of an ad and how it will be received by the user is a different problem that could result in better targeting if solved.

Suppose all ads were tagged for their visual content and their ad-hiding functionality looked for categories of content that you frequently hide. That data could be used for better targeting and passed all the way back to creative agencies to influence design decisions.

How is that not relevant to HN?

It is my belief that adtech companies' top priority is to make money. They do this by increasing clickthrough rate and cost per click. As long as they don't fall below some "trust" threshold (subjective emotional judgement from ill-informed customers pulling threads from obfuscated-at-best PR releases), they are golden.

From that perspective, why would they want to "better" target using proxy metrics for the ones you really care about? Focusing on the CTR[0], why use tags or interests when you can use clickthrough rate itself?

There are so many factors in what causes someone to click; it's a more effective strategy to treat all those factors as a black box, and optimize for the direct behavior you want to encourage.

Added bonus, those black box / supercomplex problems can be efficiently optimized by ML.

[0] CPC is driven by the advertiser side

That's an exercise for the reader, and not a difficult one.

I'm not here to argue the point so much as let you know that if you don't study the site rules and follow them properly, we will ban you.

I feel this is just the pound of posts that HN allows to feed the hive.

I'm afraid I don't understand.

I think that her point is... why? What’s the point of this? What is the long term societal impact? It’s not just that she wants to avoid that crap, but that she feels she shouldn’t have to.

She has been clustered into a group most likely to click bra ads by a data-mining algorithm that maximizes click through rate based on available data. There's no other consideration given and no deeper meaning to it. The bottom line is that you should use ad, script, and tracking blockers on every website you visit. It should be common sense by now.

Somebody made that algorithm, and ran it. They should be held accountable for what that algorithm does. We all know we can block the ads, stop using the product, etc. Now when is Instagram going to acknowledge that their product is user-hostile?

That algorithm is not a natural phenomenon, it’s made for a purpose it serves, and I’m so tired of “the algorithm did it” as an excuse. Please try again. I agree on the ad blocking, but if everyone actually did it the internet would implode for a while, and most don’t know how to use good versions anyway. No offense, but pretending that anything remotely technological is “common sense” for most of the world is either idealistic, or delusional.

Why is it not relevant? Because it is a woman or because she used the word triggered?

Because many people on Hacker News think that caring about what women say is the same as bringing interesting and thoughts provoking topics.

And when pointing out that such content is not worthy, as per the site guidelines, people will at best ignore the policy, at worse say you're a sexist.

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