Playing Whack-a-Mole with Facebook Ads

You know the feeling. You’re go to look at Facebook, and as you scroll through your feed,  you’re bombarded with ads. Scroll down 3 time &  and you encounter 2 posts from friends, an ad, one post from a group you belong to, a second ad, one post from a friend, and then another ad. No wonder it seems like Facebook has become more of a marketplace than a meeting place.

I get it. Social media is cheap but not free, and the “providers” (AKA the owners) pay their bills mostly through advertising. That’s why there are ads everywhere you look, from billboards and store signs to printed newspapers and magazines to TV shows and streaming services and web pages to other services like YouTube and, well, Facebook. Once Facebook went public and sold shares, it was inevitable that they would show us ads to boost revenue.

Cue customer annoyance. It’s even worse when you notice that the Facebooks ads (designated by “Sponsored” notation — in fine print, of course) are well-designed and targeted to hook your attention. Clickbait supreme I sometimes find it hard NOT to respond to. Given that the Facebook algorithms measure and reward attention and engagement, they often feature compelling content that may or may not be related to the sponsor. Once you’ve fallen for the clickbait, the algorithm will feed you even more of the same

Sometimes, it seems easier just to keep scrolling and just do your best to ignore the ads and other clutter to find relevant posts from people you know. Unfortunately, that does little to reduce the annoyance.

Thankfully, Facebook deigned to allow us users to hide ads in a 3-step process. Of course, you have to hide them one at a time, and that alone takes time & attention.

Hide Facebook ads, easy as 1-2-3!

See those 3 dots in the upper right hand corner? Click that and you get a menu. On that menu, you have “Hide ad” as one option (careful — it’s often near a “Save post” button).

Facebook then feigns interest in why you might want to hide it, offering multiple reasons you hid the ad but not the best one — “Spam.”

You can even tell Facebook to hide ALL ads from a specific advertiser. Sometimes, it offers fewer ads of that type (e.g., political content). Why do I doubt that stops the ads? Because they show up again in my feed, anyway.

So, I started hiding 95% of the ads Facebook threw at me. That doesn’t slow them down, of course, but it feels good anyway. Now, they have taken to sending me a lot more “Suggested for You” links in the feed. Not as bad as the ads, but still not what I want on my social media feed. I joined Facebook to connect with my friends and other people, not advertisers.

I’ve also recently started using, abusing, & misusing their suggested categories of offenses in a semi-systematic manner:

  • Too personal: medical or health ads of any sort, legal services, fitness ads
  • Knows too much: medical ads, alcohol ads, political ads
  • Sensitive topic: alcohol, gambling, firearms
  • Already purchased: maybe I have bought it already but I also apply this to items I have not bought yet, would never buy, or have anything I bought slightly similar
  • Irrelevant: distant cafes/restaurants (New York City diner? uh…hello?), products I would never buy, and click-bait photos/headlines unrelated to a product
  • Repetitive: a catch-all category, as the whole constant stream of ads is repetitive beyond annoyance to exhaustion but especially useful when you’ve seen the identical ad or product more than once in a session

Of course, sometimes I just click a random choice or something fairly nonsensical, just to mess with any back-end algorithm tracking me. Once I started hiding alcohol ads as “Sensitive topic,” I started seeing — for the first time ever — ads for non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits.

I got into the habit of hiding as many ads as I could, routinely hiding them as I scrolled. Better than doing nothing about the annoyance. But the never-ending stream of ads just kept coming, and even having to hide the ads became even more annoying.

That’s when I decided to turn the annoyance into a game: Facebook Whack-an-Ad!
And you already know how it works. Just like Whack-a-Mole!

As soon as an ad shows up in your Facebook feed, whack it!

Click those 3 dots, hide that ad, tell them why, and opt out of all future ads from that advertiser. Sure, it takes a minute. Believe me, though, it’s well worth it and feels great as you scroll down, dismissing ads and advertisers right and left, whack, Whack, WHACK!

That’s the basic game. Play it any way you want to. Keep score or just keep whacking the ads. I generally just whack ads as I scroll at regular speed, but sometimes I play speed Whack-an-ad to see how many ads I can hide in a minute. Sometimes, I label everything as “Repetitive” or “Irrelevant” or “Already Purchased” to see how it impacts my feed.

Facebook Whack-an-Ad — it’s easy, it’s fun and you probably already have everything you need to play.

Everybody play!

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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