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I'm Over Targeted Mental Health Ads

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No, I am not interested in paying $777 for a seven-hour session that is going to “cure” me of my trauma. Yet, regardless of what I propose to believe, the social media algorithms that follow me around, try their darnedest to convince me otherwise. You see, they think I should hand my money over to people and products that in all likelihood are either unhelpful or possibly even harmful to my mental health.

Frankly, I’m over targeted mental health ads.

I am sick of the algorithms, and I am sick of what they try to push on me. I don’t need a “life coach,” any sort of multi-level marketing (MLM) “nutrition” junk, or an untrained and unlicensed trauma worker. I also don’t need unending ads on barely scientific anxiety gadgets, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) conferences, or amazing sets of videos that will “heal” me (if I just pay to watch them). I absolutely do not need one more DM that is worded in a way I just know if I bothered to respond they’d be trying to sell me their “program.”

And look, I get it: I run a mental health Instagram.

I am a vocal mental health advocate; I share openly about my experience with depression, anxiety, complex PTSD (C-PTSD), and trauma. I use mental health hashtags, and follow other people and pages in the same field. I’m completely immersed and plugged into this world. In other words, I am their perfect target for these types of ads.

Luckily for me, I am generally quite capable of navigating my way through this advertising relatively unscathed. Yet, I’ve sadly seen people get sucked into them. We need to remember the outright false promises, quackery, and overpricing come with real dangers and consequences for many folks. Tangible damage is done. Folks lose their money, delay proper treatments, are abused, are treated in unethical ways, have hopes dashed, and the list could go on. Yes, the unscrupulous folks who are at the root of such things should be stopped.

What about the platform that not only gave them space, but the opportunity to boost their voice to those they could harm?

At what point do the powers that be have a responsibility to make sure not only the type of ads, but also the volume, folks receive is not blatantly harmful? What duty do they have to show a clear process to opt out from the advertising algorithm (or if that’s even possible)? What obligation do they have to protect people from those who want to prey on vulnerabilities for a profit?

These are complicated questions, often that have much more far-reaching and philosophical conclusions than you may expect. I can hazard a guess there are entire office floors at the newly rebranded “Meta” (aka Facebook) whose sole purpose is to figure out the legality of such issues. If their track record remains steady, I personally wouldn’t hold out for any major improvements in this regard anytime soon.

No, I don’t claim to be a person with all the answers either, but I do think it’s good to be asking these questions. Yes, I’m aware of the irony of complaining about a company while also being a person who highly utilizes social media. Also in the interest of fairness, I will say there are times the algorithm gets things spectacularly right, so it’s not all bad — but I digress.

There are a few things you can do if you want to try and curb these sorts of ads, but I’ve found this only goes so far. You can go into your settings and change ad preferences, block data and activity tracking, hide ads you don’t want to see, and report ads or accounts you think go against community standards. You can block people and companies you find troublesome or you just don’t care to see. You can put yourself on private and not allow messages or comments. You can choose to not click on ads. You can verbalize your annoyance and lobby governments and companies to make changes. Last but not least of course, there’s the option to delete yourself from your social media platform of choice. We all know how realistic that is.

Have you found mental health related advertisements follow you around? Has this been helpful or harmful? Is this unwanted and triggering or has it been a good resource? Do you find most of these ads are legitimate or unreliable? Have you tried something based on one of these ads? If you had a bad experience, was there a clear-cut process regarding how to get a refund or leave a complaint? What tactics have you used to limit this type of content in your feed? Other tips or thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Getty image by GOCMEN

Originally published: November 16, 2021
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