By: Oscar Schwartz
It’s raining on your walk to the station after work, but you don’t have an umbrella. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a rain jacket in a shop window. You think to yourself: “A rain jacket like that would be perfect for weather like this.”
Later, as you’re scrolling on Instagram on the train, you see a similar-looking jacket. You take a closer look. Actually, it’s exactly the same one – and it’s a sponsored post. You feel a sudden wave of paranoia: did you say something out loud about the jacket? Had Instagram somehow read your mind?
While social media’s algorithms sometimes appear to “know” us in ways that can feel almost telepathic, ultimately their insights are the result of a triangulation of millions of recorded externalized online actions: clicks, searches, likes, conversations, purchases and so on. This is life under surveillance capitalism.