Before I review this movie, I have a conflict of interest to declare: I love recipe gifs. For those who aren’t familiar, recipe gifs are minute to two minute long, preferably silent instructional videos on how to assemble dishes, typically made and published by food video channels on Facebook. They’re where I get most of my recipes, and I could spend days watching them, back to back to back.
They’re also advertisements.
They’re how I wound up buying prepackaged cinnamon rolls. You know the kind. Fifteen minutes at 325 cos my baking tray is nonstick and bam—cinnamon rolls. Didn’t even use them in a recipe. Just saw them day in, day out, for weeks on end.
They didn’t even need to be branded. I knew what they were, and I bought them. And the reason they were unbranded is because the main recipe gifs I watch aren’t advertisements for “sandwich cookies” or “cinnamon rolls” or even butter.
They’re primarily advertisements for BuzzFeed. Where I now spend dozens of minutes of my time on at least a daily basis, a figure that’s only rising.
How did I wind up watching all these recipe gifs on Facebook, all the time? Data mining.
Data mining is the practice of companies using websites to watch how you interact with them. Do you save videos on Facebook that are produced by companies or contain branded content? Now both that company and Facebook itself know you like those things. And you’re apt to see them more often. So you like more of them, Facebook gets more money from your likes, saves, and shares, and the company gets further embedded into your brain as a company you will go to again and again to watch their ads.
YOU’RE SOAKING IN IT says it’s about data mining, but it really isn’t. It started with the initial idea of a movie about Don Draper style ad men, the big creatives who have all the big ideas. But within an instant of production, the creative team found out that ad men don’t exist anymore. (I’m not going to use their odious tagline. I’ve heard it enough, thanks.)
Instead of ad men, companies now trust “computer algorithms” (like what can computers really do these days anyway) to figure out a person and their buying profile from their debit transactions, trackers installed in their browser by websites that then sell your information to third parties, and even webcams in your computer.
The most dangerous part of YOU’RE SOAKING IN IT is its blithe naivete toward the things computers are capable of. It glosses over all these terrifying and profound observations about computers to deliver corny punchlines about how it’s not like it used to be. It’s hard to take a bunch of LARPing computer engineers seriously as the architects of the destruction of your privacy, and these guys know this.
Apart from that, it’s just infuriatingly flabby and unfocused. It’s still the best film on this topic available, but I’d rather everyone wait for a truly comprehensive one to come along. TWO STARS
BONUS REVIEW: CANADA THE GOOD? asks the central question in a polite, understated way. There’s an index of countries being assembled according to whether or not citizens from around the world think they would like to be friends with citizens of a different country. Canada’s almost at the top, bested only by the Australians, who are seen as funnier.
Like, that’s a gripe right there, but whatever. The real question is are we good, and I’ve been asking myself that question for weeks. As Justin Trudeau goes soft on the oil sands and brings us closer to an ecological apocalypse, it’s harder and harder to know for sure. THREE STARS