The Coincidence of Our Generation

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

No, your phone isn't constantly listening to you so it can show you ads. What does that even mean? Apple is recording everything you say to let Google sell you ads online? That sounds insane, because it is, but millions of people believe it. They'll happily share anecdotes about how they talked about something and then they saw an ad for that thing and then minutes later they saw an ad for that thing.

"Proof!" they exclaim!

I think people want to believe this because it's a juicy tidbit that sounds like it could be true. And like with any good conspiracy, showing evidence about how this stuff works only heightens their resolve.

But this happens all the time in life. You buy a new car and then you start to see your same car everywhere. You have a song in your head, you sing a line randomly, and your partner reveals that was in their head as well. Hell, I have plenty of anecdotes of talking about something random while watching a football game and then seeing an ad for the thing I was talking about. Was my phone listening and then updated the national broadcast specifically for me? I'm flattered, but probably not.

I'm writing this because I think about this weird little conspiracy theory relatively frequently, and I had another similar thing come up today. I was on YouTube and saw a spicy comment on a Mercedes post that I shared with my wife. She replied with a GIF:

I laughed and then I resumed the video I was watching. Then this clip happened:


I assume we can all agree that Jacob Geller didn't record this video weeks ago and then plan on me watching it at exactly the right moment to see the meme that my wife sent me seconds earlier.

This isn't the most exciting coincidence in the world, but I do think that it's good reminder that sometimes things happen completely coincidentally and it's not because your phone is always listening to you and bending reality to its whims.

Also reminder that most of the time you aren't seeing ads for whatever you're talking about, and the info that ad networks have on your is more than enough to guess at what you might like.