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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 11-Jun-15 16:20:07

Angry Birds, online forms and freedom of choice

Are you wondering how these three things could possibly be connected? Well, let Helen Walmsley-Johnson fill you in on the online form that's currently leaving her feeling fenced in(to a distinctly beige over 50s box, complete with an elasticated waist).

Helen Walmsley-Johnson

Angry Birds, online forms and freedom of choice

Posted on: Thu 11-Jun-15 16:20:07

(14 comments )

Lead photo

The scene of (one of) the crimes.

First of all, I would like to say that despite my recent background (the Guardian) I am not one for constructing conspiracy theories. Having said that, there does seem to be a nebulous plan forming somewhere out there in the wider world to rob us - that's people in general and women in particular - of freedom of choice. I refer to the ubiquitous practice of harvesting apparently innocuous data. You know the thing: you're about to embark on some personal internet-based research before you buy, ooh… say, a new roasting tin, and up pops a questionnaire asking ever so politely if you wouldn't mind telling them how old you are, what gender you are and roughly where you live in order to 'improve their online offering to you'. To which I usually say (to the cat) "none of your bleedin’ business, matey" and click the little cross in the corner to remove the offending item from my screen.

I can be more specific. I have a mild addiction to Angry Birds, which is a computer game I find intensely soothing. I enjoy flinging birds at green pigs (good for hand/eye coordination which apparently suffers as one ages) and I enjoy the resulting conflagration when the green pigs are annihilated in a cloud of virtual dust and debris (this part of the game performs the function of anger management). However… recently before I can embark on wreaking havoc in a virtual reality, you guessed it - up pops a little square requesting my age and gender in order, they say, to improve my personal Angry Birds 'experience'. "Bugger off" I say (to the cat). I am deeply suspicious of what might happen if I take three seconds to complete this form. I'm a 59 year old woman and not, I suspect, your typical Angry Birds gamer - what will I get, pink birds and large print?

I am deeply suspicious of what might happen if I take three seconds to complete this form. I'm a 59 year old woman and not, I suspect, your typical Angry Birds gamer - what will I get, pink birds and large print?


It may be that I've been subconsciously affected by reading about face recognition software and the uses it may have. There are the obvious things like nicking criminals and football hooligans or catching terrorists, but in Japan they've come up with something that, to me, feels a bit sinister. You will, as you walk into a shopping mall, be scanned for age and gender. By the time you reach the next virtual advertising space it will be displaying ads for products the scan suggests you will be interested in purchasing. This to me sounds like no fun at all. On a good day I might get cosmetics, good tailoring and a best seller but on a bad day I will dread the appearance of funeral plans, walk-in baths and haemorrhoid cream (possibly). I predict a future where I will refuse to leave the house without a face-full of slap and dark glasses.

You may be thinking that on my list of Things to Worry About this should be somewhere down at the bottom between 'sort sock drawer' and 'buy paper clips' but every time one of those little boxes appears it stimulates my anxiety muscle because what I see is an eroding of my freedom of choice. I don't want to be told what I will like by someone who doesn't know me - I want to be able to decide for myself. How can you possibly calculate an individual human being's likes, dislikes and heartfelt consumerist desires on the basis of gender, age and location? It's bad enough now with older women all being lumped into one generalised (and generally beige) age bracket. We're constantly told we want to look younger, go on a river cruise and buy things with elasticated waists. We are forever being nudged towards a neatly classified, homogenous stereotype for women over 50 because it makes it easier. My question is: easier for whom? I don't want this stuff I'm being told I need. I want to look around before I decide and I want to look around in Top Shop or Agent Provocateur, on Net-a-Porter or ASOS because half the pleasure in buying is the choosing, and half the pleasure of that half is in choosing something that you know is right for you but still says 'up yours' to society's perception of us. I tell you, it'll be cold day in hell before I fill in that Angry Birds form.

Helen's new book, in which she takes on her vintage years in the most fabulous of fashions, is published by Icon Books and available now from Amazon.

By Helen Walmsley-Johnson

Twitter: @TheVintageYear

soontobe Thu 11-Jun-15 16:43:36

Ha! grin
I cant say that I am personally bothered, because I dont take notice of adverts.
But I get where the blogger is coming from.

trisher Thu 11-Jun-15 19:36:14

Can't see the problem. You don't need to tell the truth. Fill the form in with a load of lies, they can't tell and you have the added satisfaction of knowing you are screwing up their statistics.

janeainsworth Thu 11-Jun-15 19:51:13

Sorry but my eyes glazed over when I got to 'I have a mild addiction to Angry Birds' .................hmm

loopylou Thu 11-Jun-15 21:41:00

My mind switched off by the 4th line, sorry hmm

Ana Thu 11-Jun-15 21:48:30

What a load of old twaddle! And to stop ads you only need to download Adblock Plus.

I got the distinct impression this blog was written out of desperation to meet a deadline.

yggdrasil Fri 12-Jun-15 13:00:37

I have AdBlock installed. It's free. I don't get popups. Oh and I have Ghostery too.

nanatwice Fri 12-Jun-15 19:20:39

Wish I had an adblocker because I know just what you mean. And the same adverts come up all the time too. Some just get me cross. Then a little upset because I really don't want to be told to get a funeral plan when Ive just creaked out of bed. I'm 61, not 101! And even then I would'nt want a bloody funeral plan.

Ana Fri 12-Jun-15 19:33:32

Just google Adblock Plus, download it and install it nanatwice. It's free! smile

nanatwice Fri 12-Jun-15 20:01:13

Thanks Ana I will do that, I just didnt realise you could do that. Does it block all of the adverts automatically? Mind you, bet we will still get the irritating survey requests!

Funnygran Fri 12-Jun-15 20:35:49

I sometimes read our local newspaper online and get used to the adverts that pop up in the middle of the page. Yesterday I was looking at something and a Sky advert told me I couldn't read the rest of the item until I had answered a question. Sure enough the text was blurred. I got the thing wrong since we don't have Sky although they then gave me a clue so I could carry on. Never seen this before and found it very annoying. Will be looking at Adblock!

loopylou Fri 12-Jun-15 21:03:40

I've got Adblock but I still get infuriating pop ups related to some recent searches eg. M&S.

Any ideas how to stop them?

calypsonan Mon 15-Jun-15 09:34:12

oh I so agree with you helen. I have just ordered your book by the way it sounds wonderful

ninathenana Mon 15-Jun-15 15:31:00

With you there loopylou I'm currently looking at Booking.com at the top of this page, and get Bon Marche appearing in the middle of all sorts of stuff due to recent searches. angry

loraclip Tue 16-Jul-19 07:34:17

Use lucky patcher on your device. It can block any types of ads from this Angry Birds game. I also use it for this work...