This year's election and its aftermath made one thing clear: There are multiple Americas and we're not listening to each other.

It's not necessarily our fault either. Search engines and social media platforms like Google and Facebook have been accused of creating "filter bubbles" for users, using algorithms to determine what we see based on what they think we want to see, often excluding information that might challenge our pre-existing beliefs or make us feel uncomfortable.

Since the presidential campaign kicked off last year, the filter bubble has been the subject of fierce discussion, credited with (or blamed for) everything from the surprise of Donald Trump's victory to the proliferation of fake news to the eroding of democracy.

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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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