Yesterday, I wrote an amusing little vignette about an email I had received. I am, of course, using the word “amusing” very loosely. I guess you could say the same thing about “vignette.” Really, most of that last sentence was a large pile of crap.
In this email I referred to, the Republican National Committee had offered me the very rare opportunity to receive a pair of comical socks endorsed by a former president in exchange for a $35 donation. It seems to me that they were really just offering to sell me an expensive pair of socks, but they were pretty adamant that this was a donation.
When writing, I do my best to be a professional. That means that I spend a fair amount of researching. In this situation, a fair amount of time is equal to the amount of time it takes for me to stop reading articles like “The Top 25 Product Flops of All-Time.” (Spoiler Alert: Number one is New Coke. Number one is always New Coke.)
In an effort to write the most well-informed post I could, I spent time Googling these socks. I read people’s reaction to them, I mocked people’s reaction to them, I even learned that George H.W. Bush does, in fact, love socks. I stopped researching and I began writing. 9 to 10 distractions later, my post was finished and I thought I would never hear about these socks again.
Then today, I began to notice something strange. Every single website I visited was displaying an ad for these socks. That’s mighty peculiar, I thought. And yes, I did think it in that exact wording.
Then I began to notice something else. When it was not an ad for George Bush socks, it was an ad for P.F. Flyers, a shoe that I had just purchased online. Other times it was an ad for vacationing in Colombia, coincidentally a search I had made the night before while Anthony Bourdain’s “Part’s Unknown” tried to convince me that a trip to Colombia will not end with me being murdered.
Now, I have known for quite some time that Google tracks my web history to provide me with what they call “interest-based ads.” That is the sacrifice I make when I choose to use Gmail and Google Chrome over, say, Yahoo mail and Netscape.
Now, though, I am beginning to be concerned about what Google may think of me. In my mind, there is one individual responsible for tracking my search history. He looks at everything I do. Now, based on three searches, he thinks I have some weird preoccupation with my feet and that I am headed to Colombia for no particular reason. He is probably sitting there thinking “Oh good. Nathan finally ordered his shoes for Colombia. Those will be very comfortable on his trip.”
I began to think about other things that I might have searched for. Immediately after looking at Colombian vacations, I remembered comparing prices to several other South American countries. There is a strong possibility that Google thinks I am attempting to flee the country for some reason. In the mind of Google, I have to get out of the United States quick. Just me, my P.F. Flyers and my colorful socks.
I suppose I should be more concerned about this than I am. Fortunately, I never attempt to buy anything nefarious online, so these ads are likely to consist of guitars and the occasional nerdy DVD set. I do want to make sure Google knows one thing, though.
I am not that concerned about my feet. Please do not peg me as an individual fixated on my own feet. Please.