via Ted Eytan / Flickr

When same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015, a lot of conservatives and religious folks predicted it would be the end of the world.

In fact, on the day same-sex marriage was made legal, searches on the popular website Bible Gateway for "end times" reached an all-time high. Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson claimed that after the decision we'd all be having relations with animals.

"Watch what happens, love affairs between men and animals are going to be absolutely permitted. Polygamy, without question, is going to be permitted. And it will be called a right," Robertson said.

Well, the world didn't end and no one has married their cat … yet. But what did happen was a surge of economic activity.

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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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