Photos courtesy of Sara Bennett

I've always known that I was adopted. My parents never tried to hide this from me. For one, they couldn't. I didn't look anything like them. Their smooth, pale, white skin contrasted with my darker complexion. Their double-lidded blue and green eyes were nothing like my brown monolidded ones. Strangers would often ask if I was sure that the tall, balding, white man was my father. When I eagerly nodded yes, a certain look would come over their face.

For as long as I've known that I was adopted, I've known that I was loved. My parents always made sure that I knew down to my very core that they cared for me. Even though I looked nothing like them, they were quick to tell me that it didn't matter—that they would love me the same if I were purple with white polka dots, or if I had red hair, or if I were taller. And when I was younger, I accepted their words as the absolute truth.

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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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