Today, Vincent van Gogh is considered a world-renowned painter and artistic genius. This was not always the case.

Van Gogh lived in poverty and anonymity for most of his life.

He was born on March 30, 1853, one year to the day after his parents' first child (also named Vincent) arrived stillborn. He grew up poor and left school to help support his family. He worked in galleries and with art dealers but had a habit of falling in love with women who didn't love him back. After his first heartbreak, he became a teacher and religious evangelist. But when his contract at the church wasn't renewed, van Gogh turned to painting.

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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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