I understand the peril of having to come up with content on demand, so I'm sympathetic to the fact that every column by Sarah Garrecht Gassen isn't going to be scintillating (she definitely a sharp thinker and a good writer), but today, she takes on the troubling fact that ads seem to follow you around the internet these days. In her case, she looked up something on an online store selling suspenders AND NOW IT'S SUSPENDERS EVERYWHERE:
I search for recipes for quinoa (does anyone really know what to do with it?) and he’s there. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and many others. He’s in the corner, leaning against the porch rail, lasso rope in hand.
He even made a cameo as I tried to find the obituary of a friend’s relative. There he was, offering suspenders of condolence.
This man — not smiling but not smiling in that man model way — has been sporting his suspenders of ubiquity across my online life for days.
Don't worry, there's a larger context. This isn't just the story of the modern state of internet advertising and how something somewhat banal online annoyed a local editorial writer, but a larger question of what is really real online.
Our online selves have the potential to be nothing like us in real life — part of the allure, I suppose. We can “be” whoever we want to imagine ourselves in some ways, but in others we’re increasingly defined by the choices we make, or that are made for us by some magical computer brain....
Suspenders man is part of a larger phenomenon — how easy it is to create these landscapes of what we see, based on what we have already seen.
It’s a tomato soup and toasted cheese existence — my favorite lunch, consumed with remarkable consistency as a child. I know its gooey goodness, its familiarity. I know it will make me feel content because it has hundreds, if not thousands, of times before.
Contentment has its place. But it’s not a challenge. It’s not a thrill. It’s safe. There’s no way to be surprised or expand ourselves with words, art, music, food, experiences we don’t already know. What a limited existence.
She loses me somewhere in there, but regardless, someone should pass on to Ms. Gassen that she can dump suspenders man by clearing cookies, using a privacy mode or a dozen other ways. Or, as someone who makes a living via the ads that appear next to her content, just accept that ad folk are going to try to find largely inoffensive ways to sell you things based on your perceived interests. Sometimes a man in suspenders isn't anything other than that.