REI

Since 2015, the outdoor gear giant REI has gone the opposite direction of most retailers on Black Friday. Instead of slashing prices and advertising sales on the biggest shopping day of the year, REI has closed its doors, shuttered its online sales, and encouraged would-be shoppers to go outside instead. Employees are still paid as if it were a work day.

For the past four years, the #OptOutside campaign has taken people from crowds and consumerism to the simple joys of nature. But this year, they're taking the idea one step further. Through more than 100 organized clean-up events, REI is asking people to "Opt to Act" for the environment.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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