Recently, I got fed up with being a lady on Facebook. The marketing. The advertisements for empowered baby clothes (“she’s a rocket scientist!”) and faintly healthy food (“try three papaya-sweet corn bars for only $12.99!”).

I tried adjusting my ad settings, denying my prior interests in travel, science, and art. But I was still getting advertised to on the broadest of parameters: a female aged 18-55 in America needs… baby clothes. For me, it was bemusing.

For my infertile friends, it was heartbreaking: every scroll a reminder of the child they would cherish but could not have.

The only way around this, I realized, was to change myself. And so, I tweaked my profile and became a 55-year-old man living in the middle of England. 

The ads changed. More business products, less travel. More protein potions, less fresh arugula and black bean brownies.

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And then… I started getting advertisements for gay men.

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I was surprised. I’d carefully selected an interest in women when I became a man.

But by changing my gender, I was coded as transgender.

And by remaining married to a lovely guy, I was possibly gay as well.

The result?

Gay bed and breakfast ads. Surveys on sexual health.

Advice books on how to talk with your strong-but-silent partner.

Handbooks on what to do when your handsome male body ages.

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This was helpful. I appreciated a new view of the online space I thought we all shared.
But I was still frustrated by my Facebook experience.

Sleepy-eyed, I would scroll and scroll, glad to see my friends’ small canine and human creatures, new country houses and chickens, their sudden elopements and veiled but painful divorces.

But I was also overwhelmed with the emotive political news, the high-minded declarations, the ‘highlight reels’ of everyone else’s life.

And in particular, the dissonance between friends’ posts on how employers and schools and families try to push women in a box. Followed by those ads implying that women want most of all to be stylish mamas, eat green things, and have children.

Well… *sips iced caramel macchiato, wearing jeans and a happily quiescent reproductive system* …

This isn’t true for everyone.

But the pressure to be simultaneously feminist and feminine remained. So what would happen, I wondered, if I couldn’t see what any women were posting on Facebook? Read on here…

How I turned into a guy on Facebook
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4 thoughts on “How I turned into a guy on Facebook

  • June 2017 at 4 AM

    I think I’d rather have wild guesses than near misses. Because I follow a fair number of parenting related things for work, FB thinks I need ads related to pregnancy and childbirth. 🙁

  • June 2017 at 5 PM

    Facebook lists something about puppets or puppetry under almost all of my ad preference categories. I have no idea why. Creeps me out.

  • September 2017 at 1 PM

    I loved your gender bending at FB! You must have the algorithm wholly confused — who knew you could confuse an algorithm?


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