Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
I am going to preface this post by saying that this is not directed with judgment or anger at any of my fellow parents on Facebook. I’m not saying anything here to make anyone feel guilty or gulled. But we do need to discuss the past week’s participation memes that asked people to share photos in celebration of their children.
You may have also recently heard pushback that these memes were likely a data mining operation, but you aren’t quite sure what data the meme creators might be getting just from the knowledge that you have a child. So I’d like you to consider the following.
You participate in “National Daughters Day” by posting a photo of you and your child at a forest preserve. The data farm, which is currently filtering those posts across the platform that used words like “daughter” in the text, adds your name to a list to be sold to third parties, who then pay Facebook for the privilege of advertising to those on the list. Within a month you are seeing a lot more ads in your newsfeed for products on sale at REI and Patagonia, especially those that are in kids’ sizes, and possibly those that come in “girly” colors.
But that’s merely obnoxious. The part that’s malicious is how social media then starts curating your news as well based on your participation. You have a daughter? Here are articles from across the world about young women being victimized, specifically to get you upset and engaged in the comments. Some of these sources have been written with an additional agenda — here are articles in which young women have been attacked specifically by people of color, or by undocumented immigrants, flooding your feed to convince you that these are the only such crimes occurring. Here is a daily update on what the Taliban have done to women since retaking Afghanistan, and why don’t you hate Joe Biden for it, parent of a daughter?
In 1973, American artist Richard Serra famously observed that “if something is free, you’re the product.” At the time he was discussing the way television’s true customer base was not the viewing audience, but the advertisers, who were having consumers delivered to them through the screen. This is the evolution of that, spurred by technological advances and the increasing bounty of rewards for self-interest and ethical bankruptcy.
I say again that this is not a post to inspire shame in other parents, all of whom shared pride in their progeny from a place of admirable intent. It is a reminder that there are few institutions, corporations, or other powerful groups that will not seek to take advantage of your heart when you open it so fully. I believe your love and I believe your joy, and I am also no better, often experiencing moments when I am less cynical or circumspect than I should be.
I have to remember, even as I persist on my social media platforms, that they are not to be trusted. And I wish you strength in doing the same.