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The internet is a weird and terrifying place. In banner ads from your cookied internet search history or social feeds that track your every movement, share a time that “the algorithm” has absolutely served you. (Feel free to go in either direction: served you what you wanted/needed without knowing it, or served you something that made you think “what the heck did I do to deserve this?”)

Eric Mochnacz

Can we all just admit we did a lot of weird things at the beginning of the pandemic? Made a shit ton of bread. Hoarded toilet paper. Me? I downloaded TikTok.

One night, I climbed into bed at 9 P.M., ready for a good 10 hours of sleep! And then I opened TikTok. All of a sudden, it was 11:00, and I was exhausted.

I must’ve clicked something somewhere, because all of a sudden my phone (and the algorithm) thought I was a proud, red hat wearing MAGA type. Apparently, they were trying to co-opt the word “Karen” to describe the people who confronted THEM in Targets and Wal-Marts and supermarkets for NOT wearing a mask.

And that’s when I decided I didn’t want to be on this planet anymore… and I didn’t want to be on TikTok anymore.

Keven Balderas

Friday. It had been weeks since I last had a hamburger with cheese, and I was craving one bad. So, come lunchtime, I’m rushing out of the office for the nearest fast food joint. In a matter of minutes, I’m staring one down in my hands. Of course, though, for one reason or another, but mostly because of an odd and wicked impatience, I have to eat while scrolling down the feeds of my social media accounts. Can you believe that I finished my hamburger with no recollection right after of what it had tasted like? I’d been more concerned about one stranger’s skateboarding tricks or another’s pictures of their Malaysian vacation. You have to be more present, dude… leave your gadget in the car next time, or all your food memories will be of content feeds rather than actual feeds.

Sarah Razner

I will say proudly that I have a problem with books—buying them, not reading enough of them, getting too emotionally attached to the characters in them once I do. So, it wasn’t at all surprising when my Instagram began feeding me book-related ads. What was surprising was how many of them missed the mark (yes, I want that book clock, but do I have $300 to spend on it? No!) That is until last winter, when an ad popped up for Inkwell Threads, a small business that makes book-inspired clothing and accessories. The first t-shirt shown was one that spoke right to my heart, and struck one of my core beliefs. “Cultivate Empathy: Read,” it said. They had me right then and there. Nearly a year and a half later, I have basically purchased every shirt in their store. Well played, algorithm, well played.

Jay Heltzer

Coming out of the pandemic, (what day was that again? The 32nd of Nevuary?) I realized that I needed to get my poop back in a group. No longer could I confidently claim “overwhelm” with everything in my life. The time had come to get ORGANIZED. I tried Bullet Journals in the past to zero success. I should try that again. <CLICK> Still doesn’t work for me. What was that planner my friend Megan uses? Oh yeah. <CLICK> No, I don’t like that one. #PlannerLife #PlannerJunkie #PlannerBabe on Instagram. One of those should lead me down the path of success, right?<CLICK> No, not so much. Why are there Bible Planners in my social media feeds? Jesus… no, really. It’s Jesus. <CLICK> Make it stop. <CLICK> Unsubscribe! <CLICK>

Devin Householder

Really loving the consumer experience I’m having on Choice, convenience, value, yea it has pretty much everything I’m looking for in a sole mate. Found Angela last week, and when I added her to cart, the site suggested the great pair of tan Scarpa hiking boots I was looking at earlier in the day, and I realized the site studies my every cybermove and actually helps me accessorize my girlfriends. Anyway, Angela looked like a sure thing, reviews were solid 4 and 5, her specs were perfect (was pleasantly surprised that every offering on the site posed for humiliating photos with a tape measure, but oh how helpful that feature is!). Upgraded to next-day air and within seconds I was planning our first date.  Turns out Angela talked a great deal more than the reviews revealed, and by 11 that night I went back on the site to check out the return policy, which is really like no-questions-asked awesome. The next morning I had motormouth back in the packing peanuts, and the girl at Staples wanded the box back in and said, “You’re good.”  The perfect break-up. I kept the boots though; they were really awesome.

Sam Hedenberg

Have you met my friend Al Gorithm? Al has a hard time reading social cues, so when he shows up to happy hour, all he does is interrupt the conversation with comments that are only tangentially related to the current topic.

My Instagram feed and I were looking at some watches the other day, and Al was like “YOU LIKE JEWELRY? I KNOW THIS COMPANY WHO MAKES HAND-FORGED VIKING REPLICA JEWELRY! HOW ABOUT THIS GOLD WALLET CHAIN?”

Al’s been on a real health kick lately, and it’s annoying. He keeps showing me these animated videos of fat dudes running, their man-titties bouncing. He’s also serving up guys with shredded abs guzzling some sludgy beverage. “PROTEIN!” Al yells. “GREENS! FIZZY LIFTING DRINK!”

The thing about Al is that even when you don’t invite him, he shows up. The only thing you can do is not go to happy hour at all.

Josh Bard

I am an interesting, complex person. I boast many creative ideas and thoughtful actions. I am an overthinker, often to my detriment, but also love to be silly and stupid to try to get a laugh. I know that I am an unpredictable, unique individual. One that contains multitudes, so I hate being put into any one box, because… OH SHIT IS THAT A HEATH BAR AD ON MY INSTAGRAM FEED? HOW DID THEY KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE HEATH BAR? SERIOUSLY! WHO EVEN KNEW HEATH BAR HAD ADS? VIDEO ADS NONETHELESS! HONESTLY WHAT KINDS OF DEMO IS HEATH BAR TRYING TO FIND ON AN APP LIKE THIS?

Oh yeah, it me… damn.

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