One of the best things about social media ads are the strange specialty products targeted to consumers. Before Facebook and Instagram existed, I bet you never would’ve considered your life incomplete without a pair of sweatpants that are covered – crotch-to-ankle – with Nicolas Cage’s face. And they’re just $19!!
Or maybe you’re looking for something a little more practical. Like a set of 28 fake teeth, all nicely packaged and for the bargain basement price of just $4.
Something you can sink your teeth into.
If you haven’t seen these sweet deals pop up in your Facebook or Insta feeds, are you even living your social media life to the fullest?
However, if you’re a weirdo who doesn’t see the benefit of these targeted ads following you around (are you sure you don’t want a Trump Toilet Brush??) we have a solution. There are steps to take to have ads geared towards your own personal (boring) wants and needs.
Not all ads are of the strange variety. A lot of them are from more traditional businesses that you interact with or are local to your area. They also may not be relevant to your own needs, so taking steps to correct what social media sites deem are ads “for you” is your best bet. Unless you are super into celebrity face pants or a steady stream of leather-kink items.
How Instagram/Facebook Ads Work
First, if you don’t already know, Facebook (or Meta- weird) and Instagram are under the same umbrella, so what one site thinks your advertising preferences are, the other one does too.
Facebook really is recording every bit of data that it can get from you. This is through tracking your comments, likes and other engagement with posts. If you haven’t turned off location tracking on your social media pages, they are using it to know where you’re at to target more localized business ads to you. Even when you visit other websites (hello, cookies. If Facebook has a pixel code there, it picks up your data when you’re there.
Social media is keeping track of everything you like, your behavior and interests. How many times do you keep going back to check out that blow dryer that you keep talking yourself out of? How many times do you google “Nic Cage face pants?” Oh, and those fun quizzes that tell you what type of cheese you would be (I’m a gouda, by the way), they’re also collecting more data on you that can later be used for targeting.
Check Your Social Media Ads Information
You can look at the ad information that both Facebook and Instagram have for your account.
To look at what Instagram has under your ad interests, click on your Settings tab, go to Ads, then click Ad Interests. There you’ll find a whole list of the topics that Instagram has determined you’re interested in from advertisers. You can also look at your Ad Activity, which shows you how you’ve been interacting with ads on Instagram.
On Facebook, go to Settings & Privacy then down to Permissions. Click Ad Preferences and you’ll see a whole lot of information on what advertisers you’ve seen recently. It will also show advertisers you’ve hidden, and ads you’ve clicked on. If you click through on the top button that says Ad, you’ll find a section headed “Manage Data Used to Show You Ads.”
From there, you can scroll through to see what demographic information they are using (and you can switch those off.) Plus a list of the interest categories they base advertising on for you. Facebook gives you the option to remove any interest category you don’t want to be targeted for by advertisers.
Facebook also has the helpful “X” button on ads that lets you tell them straight up that those ads aren’t for you. They are always watching and learning to try to make the experience better for you (read: easier for advertisers). On Instagram, you can click Hide Ad and give feedback on why you don’t want to see it (i.e. it’s irrelevant, it’s showing up too much, or it’s inappropriate.)
Remove/Block Social Media Ads
There is no way to completely keep ads from impeding on your social media scrolling. BUT there are ways that you can cut them down or avoid them. Changing your preferences and marking ads as irrelevant will help remove the ones that are totally irrelevant to you. It will (maybe) help show you ads that are helpful (so just buy the damn blow dryer already).
To help stop targeted ads, there are four things you can do:
Install a VPN with ad blocker
Wipe your browser history and turn off cookies
Opt out when you can
Install a VPN with Ad Blocker
A VPN is a virtual private network which helps protect privacy whenever you’re online. VPN’s connect users to a proxy server (a gateway between you and the internet) allowing you to browse the web anonymously. This prevents ad trackers from knowing who you are or what you’re doing online.
Most web browsers these days offer an Incognito Mode for users. When this feature is enabled, advertising cookies get ignored by the browser, so your browsing history won’t be recorded. To go incognito on Chrome, click the three dots at the top of your window and click “New Incognito Window.”
Wipe Your Browser History and Turn Off Cookies
Cleaning the slate is one of the best things you can do to stop targeted advertising. This removes any record of your past searches, data, cookies and cache from your online activities. To do this in Chrome, click those three dots again, and click Settings. Next, go to Security and Privacy. From there, you can click on Clear Browsing Data and choose how you want to deal with cookies.
Opt Out When You Can
Algorithms are used by many companies to track activity and behavior online. Visit this link to get a list of the advertisers that are directly targeting you. You can read about each company’s practices and use opt-out cookies to opt out of ads.
There is so much to see on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok etc, but that doesn’t mean we want to see ads for shit like teeth jewelry or travel urinals. Especially, while we’re looking at thirst traps or reels that show cats doing some weird crap. So, if you want to get away from the weirder side of Instagram, take steps to get that mess out of your feed and you’ll have a better time with your mindless scrolling.
Sixx Cool Moms Loves Weird Social Media Ads
Author: Jessica Neff is a mom, writer, photographer, born-again baker and failed housekeeper. She’s living the doublewide dream as a reporter down in Texas with her fiancé and two daughters. Jessica is also the Market Director for Cool Moms of Dallas Fort Worth! Visit our Chapter Directory for a Cool Moms chapter near you!