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Don’t Let Tax Filing Season

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

Don’t Let Tax Filing Season Get the Best of You

The April 15 deadline to file your 2018 tax returns will be here before you know it. If you’re like many Americans, hearing the phrase “tax season” can induce stress—and for good reason. Filing your taxes can be confusing, but, with the help of a tax professional, it doesn’t have to be. In addition to contacting a certified tax professional, review the following information.

How to File

Many people elect to file their tax returns electronically. This can be done in a variety of ways, including using tax-preparation software, consulting a tax return professional or using the IRS’ Free File software, if you qualify.

Forms to Include

If you are filing with a paper form, there are certain documents you must be sure to include. Required forms include the following:

  • A copy of your W-2 for each of your employers over the last calendar year
  • A copy of Form W-2C (a corrected W-2 form), if received from your employer
  • A copy of Forms W-2G and 1099-R, if federal income tax was withheld

Next Steps

Remember, tax filing doesn’t have to be stressful. Don’t wait until the last minute to start preparing. For more information on how to file, what forms to include, credits you qualify for or any other filing-related questions, please visit the IRS’ Interactive Tax Assistant tool.

forms include the following:

  • A copy of your W-2 for each of your employers over the last calendar year
  • A copy of Form W-2C (a corrected W-2 form), if received from your employer
  • A copy of Forms W-2G and 1099-R, if federal income tax was withheld

Next Steps

Remember, tax filing doesn’t have to be stressful. Don’t wait until the last minute to start preparing. For more information on how to file, what forms to include, credits you qualify for or any other filing-related questions, please visit the IRS’ Interactive Tax Assistant tool.

View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

Spring HVAC Filter Maintenance

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in inSIGHTS

Your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system keeps the air in your home clean and free of pollutants. However, you need to keep your HVAC system’s filter cleaned and maintained regularly so you know you’re always breathing clean air.

Spring is the start of allergy season for many people, making it a great time to inspect your filter. Since your HVAC system circulates the air in your home, the filter will remove dust and pollen particles from the air.

Here some of the advantages of changing your HVAC’s filter regularly:

  • Energy costs—As your filter becomes clogged, your entire HVAC system will have to work harder and use more energy to make up the difference. According to the Department of Energy, the average household can reduce their energy bills by up to 15 percent by replacing air filters regularly.
     
  • Air quality—A clogged filter won’t clean your home’s air as efficiently as a clean one. As a result, dust, dirt and allergens can spread around your home.
     
  • HVAC system lifespan—Pollutants can spread throughout your entire HVAC system if the filter is blocked, putting undue stress on the system’s motor and other parts. This can lead to expensive maintenance over time, or even the replacement of the entire system.
View more InSights here.

Trampoline Liabilities

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

Did You Know?

Trampolines can provide hours of entertainment and fun for the whole family—especially young children. However, there are a number of liability risks trampoline owners need to consider to keep loved ones safe.

Use these tips to protect your personal property:

  • Always supervise all users on the trampoline, regardless of their ages or experience levels.
     
  • Only allow one person on at a time.
     
  • Do not allow children under the age of six to use a trampoline.
     
  • Do not place a ladder near a trampoline because it welcomes younger children to climb up and start jumping.
     
  • Do not allow jumpers to do somersaults or flips, as they could land on their necks or heads incorrectly.
     
  • Do not allow jumpers to use the trampoline as a way to jump onto other objects.
     
  • Securely attach safety padding to cover the hooks, springs and frame.
     
  • Setup the trampoline on level ground away from trees and other obstacles.
     
  • Install safety netting around a trampoline to provide fall protection.
     
  • Inspect the trampoline before each use to make sure that the springs are
    secure and that the bed does not have any tears or holes.

Safety First

Trampolines are considered attractive nuisances—items that are attractive and enticing to children. If kids are walking by your home and spot the trampoline in your backyard, they may be enticed to head on back and start jumping. In the event that they suffer an injury on your property, you are ultimately liable.

To protect yourself, consider fencing in your yard and never allow unsupervised individuals to jump when you are not present.

60+ Things To Do In DC

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

National Cherry Blossom Festival – Through April 14
The nation’s greatest springtime celebration fills the first two weeks of April with free family events, many with Japanese influences, a nod to the gift of the trees in 1912 from the Mayor of Tokyo to the citizens of Washington, DC. Among the signature events to be enjoyed in April: Petalpalooza (April 6) at The Wharf and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 13).

The Cherry Blossom PUB (Pop-Up Bar) – Through April 21
For the third consecutive year, the Cherry Blossom PUB returns to DC to spice up spring in Shaw. The 2019 edition features a room designed like a bowl of ramen, with sculptures of noodles and chopsticks and actual ramen from Ramen by UZU served. There’s also a garden room inspired by the Palace of Versailles’ Fontaine de L’Encelade. The drink menu offers the Honeydew, Honey See (sake, vermouth, fermented sake syrup, cucumber, honeydew, absinthe) as well as the Once and Floral (gin, peach, lemon, orange flower water, egg white, matcha).
5 p.m. – 12:30 a.m., Sunday – Thursday; 5 p.m. – 1:30 a.m., Friday – Saturday
1843 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

ChefsFeed Indie Week – April 4-5, 7
ChefsFeed brings a weekend’s worth of events to the nation’s capital, starting with a sold-out event at Tim Ma’s American Son restaurant in the Eaton Hotel. On Friday, however, you can enjoy 12 courses from 12 different chefs in addition to wine pairings at the same location. Sunday presents the grand finale: 12 courses from all 24 chefs present throughout the weekend, with wine included. Dive into cuisine from all over the country in the culinary capital.
Tickets
American Son, 1201 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Washington Auto Show – April 5-14
Things are heating up for one of the nation’s largest auto shows, which will take place in spring for the first time ever, compared to its usual January run. Car lovers can expect the 2019 edition to dazzle with more than 600 new makes and models from 35-plus manufacturers. Attendees will be able to take part in three different indoor ride and drive experiences, and also take a car out for a test drive on the streets of D.C. Throughout the show, there will be artists painting cars live on-site, VIP tours led by automotive writers, appearances from local sports stars and mascots, and much more. Grab your tickets quickly – the Auto Show draws large crowds every year.
Tickets
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington, DC 20001

Petalpalooza at The Wharf – April 6
Get ready for more than eight straight hours of free tunes, all-ages activities, a beer garden, interactive art installations and games, all capped off by fireworks at The Wharfduring Petalpalooza (formerly known as the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival). Folks can explore DC’s hottest new development and grab a great seat for the fireworks show. Entertainment begins at 12 p.m. and is capped off with fireworks at 8:30 p.m., weather permitting.
12-9:30 p.m. |  Free admission
The Wharf, 1100 Maine Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

21st Annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk – April 6
Lace up your sneakers for this stroll, which commemorates Japanese Americans and their experience during the Second World War and encourages the continued defense of civil liberties for all Americans. The walk begins and ends at the intersection of Louisiana & New Jersey Avenues NW, the site of the National Japanese American Memorial. This year’s theme is “Fractured: The Faces of Family Separation.”
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. |  Free admission
Louisiana & New Jersey Avenues & D Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Cherry Blossom Night with D.C. United – April 9
For the first time, a pro sports game in DC will be included as a part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s events. When D.C. United takes on the Montreal Impact on the second Tuesday in April, you can expect all kinds of cherry blossom-themed merchandise, food and beverages and on-field entertainment. A special ticket offer includes a collectible pin badge branded by both D.C. United and the Festival.
8 p.m. |  Tickets
Audi Field, 100 Potomac Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

Cooking Up History: Ethiopian Culinary Cultures in Washington, DC – April 12
Cooking Up History is the National Museum of American History’s free monthly deep dive into the culinary arts at its demonstration kitchen on the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. Each event showcases a guest chef and the museum’s resident food historian, Dr. Ashley Young. In 2019, the museum is incorporating its refresh of the FOOD: Transforming the American Table exhibit into its Cooking Up History series, highlighting objects, stories and new materials that will be featured in the display. In April, learn about Ethiopian cuisine in the District from Sileshi Alifom of DAS Ethiopian Restaurant. The cooking demonstration will be accompanied by a special Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
1 p.m. |  Free admission
National Museum of American History, 1300 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560

Newseum Nights: In Bloom – April 12
The Newseum shows off its cherry blossom spirit with one of their signature after-hours events. Enjoy an open beer and wine bar, sample sake, savor signature Asian dishes from Wolfgang Puck, see a traditional Japanese drum performance, receive a personalized haiku, explore Newseum’s latest exhibit, Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, savor giveaways from ThinkFoodGroup and Nando’s and so much more.<
8:30-11 p.m. |  Tickets
Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001

Space Oddity: Ground Control to Major Party – April 12
The National Air and Space Museum, Brightest Young Things and Yuri’s Night team up for this after-hours extravaganza. In honor of Yuri Gagarin’s landmark voyage into space on April 12, 1961, the launch of the first Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981 AND the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing and the release of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” the museum will offer a DJ set, a Planetarium laser light show, a live taping of the AirSpace podcast, space-inspired activities, space-related TED-style talks, food and drink. The event is for ages 21 and over.
8:30 p.m. – 12 a.m. |  Tickets
National Air and Space Museum, 600 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge 2019 – April 12-14
For the first time, DC will host this competition that features 800 of the best CrossFit athletes in the world. DC Armory and its 70,000-square-foot space will serve as the venue for the Challenge, which will provide divisions for all skill levels. Spectator tickets are available for those who wish to take in the competition and peruse the vendor village.
Tickets
DC Armory, 2001 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003

5 Phone Hacks for Travelers

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

(That Will Help Make Your Next Trip a Whole Lot Easier)

travel a lot. And by a lot, I mean really a lot. I’ve flown more than two million miles and spent more than 1,000 nights in hotel rooms. Did I mention that I travel a lot? Here are some things I’ve learned about my phone’s ability to make my travels a whole lot smoother that I hope you can use on your next trip. Happy trails! 

1. Turn your calendar into a Swiss Army knife.

If you’re not using a calendar that’s synced between your phone and laptop or is cloud-based (like on Google) then stop reading and go figure that out right now, dinosaur.

Your calendar is a very powerful and valuable tool which can solve a lot of problems, but only if you use it properly. First, mobile calendars automatically adjust for the time difference when you travel, showing your appointments, flights and reservations in the local time (the time in the place you are in). So, if you put in all your flights, appointments, etc., into the calendar, you’ll always know what’s what. If you’re working on the road overseas, and have to be on conference calls back in the U.S., the appointments you made in your calendar before you left will show in the local time, so you won’t get confused and miss calls and deadlines.

Pro tip: Add in all the details of your flights and hotel reservations, as well as the phone number and addresses of your destinations into the notes for eachappointment. Isn’t that a lot of work? Nope. Most confirmation emails from hotels and airlines include a link or an attachment which do it automatically with a click. When you’re done, finding your way to your next appointment is a single touch on the address in your calendar — the navigation app opens automagically — and all the information about your next activity will be right there. No more frantically searching your emails for addresses and phone numbers.

Related: How to Stay Productive and on Task When Traveling for Work

2. Add a +1 to all your U.S. contact numbers.

When you’re overseas, the numbers in your phone may not work correctly, or not at all, because every country has its own unique way of dialing phone numbers. Adding +1 (1 is the country code for the U.S.) before all your important U.S. phone numbers in your mobile address book will usually fix all of that so that you’re able just to use your phone as you normally would. Otherwise, you’re going to have to learn the prefix (“exit code”) for each country you visit, because even your home number is an international call when you’re overseas.

Pro tip: Make sure your personal contact information is stored correctly (including the +1) and complete. Sharing your contact card is a very tech-savvy look when people “ask for your number” — just be sure there’s nothing stored in there you don’t want to share (like your home address or passwords — yes, some people do that). You can create a second contact card (”personal”) if you want to have one with all your secret deets.

3. Upgrade your passcode.

If you don’t use a complicated passcode to unlock your phone, you’re asking for trouble. Besides having all your personal information, photos and who knows what else in it, your phone is the most perfect way for thieves to steal your identity. Thieves can use your phone to send and receive texts and emails posing as you, and can reset every password you have: banks, social sites, medical records, your video doorbell, webcams…Plus they can send pictures to your ex that might cause even bigger problems. And don’t forget about the codes to unlock your laptop or tablet you might leave behind in the hotel while you’re out. In the age of the cloud, access to any of those devices presents the same open doorway to making your life miserable.

Pro Tip: If you’re using fingerprint or FaceID to unlock your phone, good for you, but remember when you first bought the phone and set the password to “0000” because you never use it? Oops. Your phone’s password bypass just as easily unlocks it, so make it something complicated as if your life depends on it.

Related: 7 Entrepreneurs Who Built Businesses Off Their Love of Travel

4. Get your airline and hotel apps.

Before you leave, download the apps for your hotel and airline and sign in. The apps will instantly update you about flight delays and gate changes and often offer local tips and events during your stay. Most importantly, you’ll be able to make quick modifications to reservations on the move, so changing a flight or extending a hotel stay is a little less painful.

Pro tip: These apps also include the proper international phone number to reach reservations and customer service, as well as the direct number to your hotel.  

5. Your camera is good for more than selfies.

If your phone is not from the bronze age, and you have location services turned on, the photos you take with your phone are precisely geotagged. This allows you to find a place you visited, or find out more information about something you might have seen, using the location embedded into the photo’s metadata. (Don’t worry about the tech — the phone does the work for you). Forgot to write down the name of that awesome locals-only pub? Opening a photo you took will allow you to find the location, and most of the time, the exact name.

Pro tip: Remember that GPS works best outside, so if it’s somewhere you really want to remember, be sure to take a photo when you’re leaving.

Source: entrepreneur.com

9 Ways Happy People Start

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

9 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings

Everyone approaches their morning differently. Some people wake up excited to start their day. Others like to ease into their day more gradually. No matter how you like to start your morning, there are things you can do to ensure every day gets off to a great start.

Everyone approaches their morning differently. Some people wake up excited to start their day. Others like to ease into their day more gradually. No matter how you like to start your morning, there are things you can do to ensure every day gets off to a great start.

A good morning routine will help you feel relaxed, alert and energized. Starting your morning on the right foot means creating a feeling of happiness that you can carry with you all day long. Your morning routine should include not only getting ready, but also making space for feeling joy and feeling mentally and physically prepared to take on whatever the world has in store for you.

Start your day off the right way with these 9 habits that happy people use to get their morning going. (Hint: It’s not about gulping coffee and running out the door.)

1. Get enough sleep.

An exhausted person isn’t a happy person. Nothing will kill your happiness faster than waking up tired and grumpy. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re probably starting your day drained and irritated. It’s hard to have a positive outlook when all you want to do is crawl back into bed.

A good night’s sleep is like a magical elixir for your physical health, and is key to your overall sense of happiness and well-being. Research has shown that sleep is one of the most effective ways to improve concentration, strengthen the immune system and improve a person’s mood and feeling of well-being.

However, not getting enough sleep impairs memory and increases levels of stress hormones. So, the first step to creating a happy, cheerful morning is ensuring you get enough quality sleep the night before. Set a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it — your happiness may depend on it.

2. A new day, a new start.

Happy people begin each day anew. They wake up with the mindset that each day is a new beginning — a chance to move forward and not let past failures weigh them down. Yesterday may have been a rotten day, but that doesn’t mean today has to be.

Happy people start their day with an affirmation. They declare from the outset how they want their day to go. A positive morning affirmation can be a powerful way to start your day feeling confident and ready for success. Examples include:

  • I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself.
  • I am, and always will be, enough.
  • I let go of any negative feelings about myself or my life and accept all that is good.
  • I am courageous. I am willing to act and face my fears.

3. Wake up grateful.

Waking up with a feeling of gratitude ensures you start your day in good spirits. A thankful heart is a happy heart. Gratitude is powerful because it’s both a feeling and an action. Actively thinking about things you’re grateful for, in turn, makes you feel grateful. It’s a positive thought loop that’s easy to practice and has beneficial effects on your physical and mental health.

You can wake up feeling grateful by simply taking a moment when you first open your eyes to look about and feel a swell of appreciation for everything around you. Recognize how wonderful this moment is, and how good it feels to be here. Today is a gift, and you can do with it what you will. You can choose to make the most of it. You can choose happiness. Take a moment to acknowledge all you have and see the possibilities of the day before you.

4. Keep a manageable morning routine.

Happy people don’t frantically tear around trying to get ready at breakneck speed and then rush out the door, already late for their first meeting or appointment of the day. Doing this will set you up for feeling stressed out and harried all day long. Starting the day with a contented and peaceful attitude requires you to have time to wake up properly and to get ready at a calm and measured pace.

Happy people tend to keep their routine simple and manageable. A complex routine is hard to stick to and can leave you feeling anxious and exasperated first thing in the morning. Cut out multitasking and reject unneeded distractions, like checking and returning email while trying to get ready. Do one thing at a time. Keep your morning uncomplicated and as stress-free as possible so you’ll set yourself up to be in a good mood all day long.

Related: The 10-Minute Morning Routine That Will Clear Your Mind

5. Meditate

Daily meditation, whether it’s a quick five-minute practice or a lengthier session, can help create a contented and happy mind. Spending time meditating each morning improves focus, increases self-esteem and confidence, and quiets the cacophony of mental angst and turbulence we are constantly contending with. You can meditate at any time of day, but it’s best to do it in the morning so you’re sure to get it in, and so you can benefit from its effects throughout the day.

To begin the practice of meditation, start by sitting quietly in a comfortable position or in a chair for two minutes every morning. This is a chance for you to check in with how you’re feeling, both in your mind and body. Be focused on the moment. Turn your attention to your breaths or do a body scan, focusing on one body part at a time. Recognize your thoughts and feelings, and maintain a loving attitude toward yourself. Meditation is a chance to get to know yourself and be aware of each moment you are in.

Related: 7 Proven Ways Meditating Prepares You for Success

6. Start your day with exercise.

Before you dive into a long day of work, make sure you take time to get some exercise in. Some people find that fresh air first thing in the morning brightens their mood all day. Try a brisk walk, a run around the block or a trip to the gym. Other people may prefer to start their day with a home workout, such as stretching or yoga.

Morning exercise gets your blood flowing and gives you a boost of energy for the day. Exercise also releases feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These may buffer feelings of stress and anxiety, and help relieve symptoms of depression. Research has shown that working out improves how we feel about our bodies and gives us a sense of well-being.

7. Make your bed.

It may sound silly, but beginning your day by making your bed can set you up for feeling ready to take on the world. According to one survey of 2,000 Americans, bed makers tend to be adventurous, confident and sociable. People who don’t make their beds tend to be shy, moody and sarcastic.

Many successful people recommend making your bed as a simple way to start the day off on the right foot. For example, Tim Ferriss has said that the simple act of bed making teaches us that it’s the little things in life that matter.

US Navy SEAL commander Admiral William H. McRaven gave a now-famous commencement speech at the University of Texas in which he said that making your bed is so powerful because it gives you a feeling of accomplishment first thing in the morning. It encourages you to take on even more tasks and motivates you to get more done in life.

8. Nourish your body.

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and gets your body and mind prepped for a busy day. Research has found that breakfast eaters have better diets and consume more fruit and vegetables than those who don’t eat breakfast.

But just as important, a nourished body leads to an improved mood. Eating breakfast also sends a positive message to yourself that you are taking care of your health and well-being. You’ll find you can concentrate better if you start the day with a healthy meal. You’ll be less likely to feel fatigued and get that “hangry” feeling mid-morning, which leads to overeating at lunch. The best breakfasts pair carbs with proteins to get your body fueled and ready to go.

9. Set goals for the day.

Happy people often have a sense of purpose. They aren’t wandering aimlessly through life; they work each day to make progress and accomplish their tasks. It feels satisfying to have set priorities for yourself and strive to meet milestones. Happy people make sure they begin their day by setting goals for themselves. What do you want to accomplish today? What is the most efficient and effective use of your time?

Make it a point to spend a few minutes each morning determining what you want to do that day. Be sure to think through your to-do list carefully — often we spend too much time on things that aren’t really important. Focus on what matters and make sure you’re scheduling downtime. After all, the secret to lasting happiness is finding ways to enjoy each day in its entirety.

I Deleted Facebook Last Year.

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Here’s What Changed (and What Didn’t).

When Facebook and its family of apps experienced a daylong malfunction last week, millions of people got a taste of what life would be like if the social network were out of their lives for good.

I can tell you more about that: I permanently deleted my Facebookaccount five months ago.

So what has happened in the aftermath?

The social network’s long-stated mission has been to connect people so that we can live in a more open world. But after being off Facebook since October, I found that I did not feel less connected and that my social life didn’t suffer, even though I was no longer seeing status updates and pictures on my News Feed.

My friends and I continued making plans over email and messaging apps. So did my family. Same old, same old.

There were some differences, though — including some strange experiences with online ads. Facebook has long used information that it collects on its users to target people with the most relevant ads. So after a few months of deleting the social network, I began seeing random ads pop up on sites like Instagram (which Facebook owns). Among them: promotions for women’s shaving products, purses and bathing suits.

Instagram might have started thinking I was female, but my wallet thanked me. I realized I was spending considerably less money on my usual guilty pleasure of buying clothing and cooking gadgets online because I was no longer seeing the relevant Facebook ads that egged me on to splurge. Over the past five months, my online shopping purchases dropped about 43 percent.

So what about FOMO, otherwise known as a fear of missing out, typically induced by social media? That is often one of the biggest reasons people are afraid to quit Facebook. What if they didn’t see that post about an outing with a distant friend? Or a party invitation shared on the social network?

For me, it turned out that without Facebook, there wasn’t much I really missed out on — except targeted ads. Here’s more of what I learned.

Over the 14 years that I used Facebook, I accrued about 500 friends. Most were former classmates whom I had lost touch with.

In my real life, I have about 20 friends I talk to on a regular basis. So when I finally deleted Facebook, the fallout was underwhelming.

Those same friends kept in touch over iMessage, Signal or email. We still get dinner or go to the movies together. I can think of one friend who exclusively used Facebook Messenger to communicate — we email now and talk less than we used to, but when we meet in person we are as close as we always were. And I can’t remember the last time I attended an event that I was invited to via Facebook, so I never had a case of FOMO.

I can also tell you what I absolutely don’t miss about Facebook: the people who frequently posted online quizzes, political news stories or their thoughts about current events on the site. Occasionally, there were funny or interesting posts, but ultimately most were time wasters.

Recently, I also started reading more books. Could it be because I’m no longer expending my energy reading Facebook?

Brands have long been able to target us with ads through Facebook’s tools. You might see an ad on Facebook for a watch, for instance, because a watch company used the tools to upload your email address and leverage other data that the social network has on you — like your age or the fact that you follow Timex’s Facebook page.

When you browse sites outside Facebook, the company can still track your browsing activity to help brands serve you targeted ads. After visiting a website for a pair of shoes, for example, you might see an ad for those shoes — or similar ones — when you go to another site.

The social network uses a variety of approaches to collect information about web users. One involves Facebook pixel, an invisible tracker that brands can embed into their websites. When you load a website for a brand, Facebook pixel sends information about the device and its browsing activities back to the company. The social network can then use that information to help brands target you.

When I deleted Facebook, I wanted all of that ad targeting to go away. So not only did I erase my Facebook account, I also installed tracker blockers on my computer browser and mobile devices to prevent advertisers from using web cookies and invisible tracking pixels like Facebook’s. (For instructions on how to shake ad targeting more thoroughly, see this previous column.)

The extra steps worked. The onslaught of targeted online ads stopped.

“If you have the tracker blocker and deleted your Facebook account, you’ve exited,” said Gabriel Weinberg, the chief executive of DuckDuckGo, which offers internet privacy tools including a web browser that blocks trackers.

Facebook says it does not build profiles on people who are not on the social network, nor does it serve targeted ads to them. “Sites and apps send us information about the people who visit them, regardless of whether that person has a Facebook profile,” the company said in a statement. “If you aren’t a Facebook user, we don’t know who you are and don’t build any kind of profile on you.”

Advertisers still have methods other than Facebook to chase me around, but there are economic reasons for them to give up. With Facebook’s tools, it was relatively affordable and effective for them to track and target me. Without those, it gets a lot more costly.

“You might be too expensive for them to chase,” said Michael Priem, the chief executive of Modern Impact, an advertising firm in Minneapolis.

Facebook has often defended targeted ads by saying that internet users are annoyed when they see irrelevant ads. I disagree. Yes, the ads I now see have nothing to do with me — but the benefit was watching my spending drop immensely.

About a year ago, I recall shopping on the site for Taylor Stitch, a men’s clothing retailer. I looked at a coat and closed the window after deciding not to buy it. Then over the next weeks, an ad for that coat loaded on Facebook, inside Instagram and on other websites. Guess what happened? I bought it.

After deleting Facebook, I have more often canceled online purchases after asking myself: Do I need another plaid shirt, frying pan or cocktail shaker? The answer was always no. And as there is now nothing to change my mind, my credit card remains sheathed.

I opened Mint, the budget tracking tool, to get a clear picture of how much I was saving. From October to mid-March, I spent about $341 on clothing and $1,100 on Amazon purchases.

That was a significant drop from my internet shopping sprees before I deleted Facebook. From October 2017 to mid-March of 2018, I spent $1,008 on clothing and $1,542 on Amazon. Gulp.

For years, I saw ads on my personal Instagram account for men’s boots, briefcases and video games. Now, I’m getting ads for products like women’s razors and brassieres.

I have a theory for the change, which Facebook didn’t dispute: Having no Facebook account means Instagram is missing big pieces of accompanying information about who I am and what I like. So it may be lacking signals to serve the correct ads.

And because my fiancée and I both run our dog’s Instagram accountand interact with it from our personal accounts and our own devices, some wires may have been crossed and Instagram now thinks I’m female. (Instagram does not require people to share their gender when signing up for accounts.)

That’s a bit odd, but I’m not annoyed. Instead, I find the irrelevant ads amusing. At least they give me ideas for future gifts.

Source: nytimes.com