On the first of May, Facebook announced that they’re adding “Clear History” as a privacy tool.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this update, I just want you to know, dear reader, that I will take on this blog in two ways:

  • as a Facebook user and
  • as someone whose job includes advertising on Facebook.

There are currently 2.20 billion monthly active Facebook users as per the first quarter of 2018, worldwide. As one of the users in this statistic, I, in all honesty don’t really care for this update. I mean, it’s good to be reassured by Facebook that we have the option to delete our cookies and history. But my personal problem with this is, Facebook will always have these records anyway. How else are they supposed to sell advertising space if not by analysing their users’ activities?

It comes down to each one of the 2.20 billion users’ discretion. Whether we admit it or not, if we sign up for a Facebook account, we trust the platform to a large degree. Some of us can be completely ignorant as to how it really works (so we post and post and post away). While some of us are sceptics and have said time and again that we’re giving up Facebook for good but we can’t seem to do so. Why? Because to some degree, social media has dictated our existence. Ever heard of “If you’re not on Facebook, do you even exist”?

Better yet, check out this video about ‘A Modern Dating Horror Story’. No spoilers here, just see it for yourself and I promise, you’ll shake your head in agreement.

I was in high school when I created my Facebook account, which was over 10 years ago. Yes, it’s been around for a while now. If you told me then that my future career would involve being on Facebook every single day, I would have laughed. Now, as someone whose job includes advertising on Facebook, it’s come to my attention that Facebook and other social media platforms has evolved into something more essential to people than we’d like to admit.

Since taking on the path of a career in advertising, I’ve become more aware of how social media works and the truth is, it can be extremely invasive of privacy. With the responsibility of having multiple advertisers’ accounts under my belt, I’d want to know as much as I can about the audience of every account. Which, of course, involves getting information from Facebook, such as their demographics and interests.

You might be asking why is it even important for companies to have a presence on Facebook. My answer to that is the same quote as I’ve mentioned previously: “If you’re not on Facebook, do you even exist?” It comes down to an existence based on familiarity. Familiarity that can only be achieved through constant invasion of your mind space, attacking your privacy day by day.

Privacy is important, but sadly, that’s not how businesses work. We need to know what you like or what you might be interested in so you wouldn’t get irrelevant ads. However, most of us never thought through (or rather, never read the terms and conditions) how sinister just being on social media is. We willingly engage in activities that take away our privacy every single day. Information that we’d never give away in our daily lives. If a bus driver says you can only hop on the bus by giving them your complete name, date of birth, and contact information, would you do it?

We give away so much that it’s become bewildering how brand awareness can be increased through social media. We’re all exposed to as many as 5,000 ads every single day. Kiwis alone spend an average of 50 minutes on Facebook daily, and with each scroll, click, and tap, Facebook determines the ads that pop-up on your news feed. So whether you notice them or not, you’re subconsciously seeing ads. You might not remember all of them at once but when your memory is triggered, chances are it’s because of an ad that you saw earlier.

Facebook and social media has gained an immense amount of power because we worship it through consumption. Anything that’s given that much attention has the capability to take over our thoughts and behaviour. Whoever dictated that social media defines your existence anyway? If you were born, you exist. If you created a business, it exists. But who says that you have to give up your privacy in order to truly exist? Just because you exist on social media, doesn’t mean you matter – and even if you don’t exist on social media, you still matter.

Advertisers would do just about anything for you to know they exist and to end up consuming their products or services. Even if it means becoming background noise for a while. We’re all used to seeing so many ads and what advertisers really spend their money on is to get your attention. Your attention is a valuable thing, and my job to tailor ads in such a way that you’ll give me permission to feed you these ads. Think of it as you socialising with your mates and suddenly, a sales person walks up to you and says “hello, you need this product!”

In summary, we can never go off the grid unless we live in a cave in the middle of nowhere. If privacy were an animal, it would be extinct. As users and advertisers, we can only hope that everyone on the platform has a good enough moral compass to respect everyone’s privacy – but we have to accept the fact that we’re never going to be completely private as long as we keep using these platforms.