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SHANE BROWN: Facebook thinks I smell. I may have proven them right.
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SHANE BROWN: Facebook thinks I smell. I may have proven them right.

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Shane Brown, classified advertising and columnist.

Facebook thinks I smell. The worst part? I may have just proven them right.

It's unavoidable: if you want to enjoy social media, you have to deal with ads. Facebook doesn't connect the world out of the goodness of its heart. It's a company, and companies have to make money. When you scroll through your social news feed, every third or fourth post is going to be a pitch for some must-have good and/or service.

Most of the time, I'm perfectly fine with advertising. Look at all the ads on this page right now. Those ads pay my bills. I've never found them cumbersome or an unwanted burden. Some of them might not appeal to me, but some perk my interest. Businesses need to reach their audience, and consumers need to know about products and services. If you think people don't care about ads, I invite you to come down here and man the phones the next time there's a delay in getting grocery coupons out - those days are like Def Con 1 in our office.

But ads on social media bug me a little. Facebook doesn't just serve you sponsors, it serves you sponsors it thinks you NEED. It's called targeted advertising. Do you think it's a coincidence when you post something on social media about baseball and then ads for baseball gear start popping up in your feed? Nope. Every move you make on social media is being monitored by algorithms and tracking software. Each time you post, some little robot somewhere is looking for keywords and trying to determine if you're a match for their product. Sometimes it's awesome. Sometimes it's less awesome.

About two weeks ago, I starting seeing frequent ads on my Facebook feed for a company that makes high-end soaps. Specifically, they make manly soaps for manly men who smell of rugged outdoors and whatever manly dudes are supposed to smell like (presumably motor oil and campfires.) Their ads are always videos starring scantily-clad women advising that the key to a successful relationship is to smell like a forest.

The other day, I stopped on one of the videos to marvel at its ridiculousness. I watched as they "interviewed" a girl enamored with her boyfriend because he used soap that smelled of pine tar. This was obvious because they were being "interviewed" while nude in the shower together. The dialogue consisted of them saying perfectly normal things that perfectly normal couples always say while being interviewed in the shower, such as, "Oh man, mid-lather, this stuff is excellent!" And, of course, "Time for a sniff test, gimme your beard!"

Then it happened. As I chuckled at the screen, my hand slipped just a little bit, and before I could do a good slo-mo "noooooooo," I accidentally clicked the mouse.

Suddenly, I was on the soap company's website. Worse yet, Facebook saw me do it, and their algorithms did, too. Sure enough, its one week later, and I now can't scroll anywhere on Facebook without someone trying to sell me random forms of musky man-soap -- and worse. As I type this, I'm presently staring at an ad for a product specifically designed to -- hmm, how to say this politely -- freshen one's nether-regions with "an enduring scent of mint and mandarin."

Many of life's questions have kept me up late at night over the years. None of those questions have ever been (1) "How do I get my naughty bits to smell like minty oranges?" Or (2) "How do I get that scent to ENDURE?"

Because I clicked on one fateful link, Facebook now presumes I roam the land reeking like a hot dumpster fire in need of professional scent assistance. The truth is, though, they might be right.

It was Sunday and I was home and bored and in dangerous possession of both high-speed internet and a little bit of fun money. That's when I remembered I was completely out of cologne. I am not a big cologne guy, but I like to keep a bottle or two around for rare occasions when I care more about my personal appearance than the usual level of "well, I can't go to work naked." Over the years, I've owned dozens of stink bottles, from old spicy drugstore fare to highfalutin stuff that costs more than a paycheck. My go-to is usually Drakkar, a scent that's probably uncool these days but harkens back to a younger, goth-ier Shane of yore.

But I was bored and felt like mixing it up, so I decided to do some online shopping. But how to buy cologne online? You can't exactly scratch-n-sniff a computer screen, and I'm not gonna be the guy who catches COVID-19 because he took his mask off to inhale test strips at the perfume counter. Surely there had to be well-written descriptions of colognes somewhere, right? Sure enough, I found helpful summaries right away, such as "this is an alluring scent for a night out, with subtle hints of sandalwood and bergamot." Sounds nice, especially if I knew what sandalwood or bergamot smelled like. I don't even know what bergamot is. I don't even know how to pronounce it.

I ended up relying on a couple reviews and picked a cologne with high ratings and one enthusiastic recommendation that "if you like Drakkar, you'll LOVE this."

Yesterday, it arrived in the mail. I happened to be home for lunch, so I opened the bottle and spritzed precisely TWICE, once on the neck, once on the wrists, and headed back to work feeling like a cool guy.

I may have felt like a cool guy, but I smelled more like an industrial accident at a lavender factory. Those two spritzes were about 1.5 too many. I sat at my desk and realized Parfum du Shane was quickly permeating the entire office. It was making my eyes water. I ran to the bathroom and tried to wash it off, but no dice. The scent and I had merged into an unbreakable lavender monstrosity. I've never been more grateful that my co-workers were wearing masks and keeping social distance. I don't think it had much to do with COVID-19 that day.

Much like the famed Sex Panther in "Anchorman," I'm putting my new cologne under lock and key until I feel the need to ever commit mass lavender-icide. Until then, I might just remain scent-free. Except for south of the border, of course, which will be minty orange fresh. You'll just have to take my word for it. No sniff test required.  

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