Home / NewTech / The algorithms of Facebook and Instagram follow me … with ninja pants

The algorithms of Facebook and Instagram follow me … with ninja pants


Me and my “ninja pants”.

Mark Serrels / CNET

As a man at 40, I lived a long and fulfilling life. I’ve been on adventures, taken risks, and eaten strange food in different countries. Once I transferred myself to the hospital and tried to drop a bale of hay.

Sorry I have a few but none compared to the time I decided to buy some ninja pants while idling through Instagram stories.

Where should I start with this story of suffering? Maybe at the beginning. With the ninja pants themselves.

If you’re a guy on any social media platform, chances are you’ve already come across ninja pants in your feed. Gigantic, baggy, possibly comfortable. Sometimes they’re advertised as “Japanese” pants, the cool kids in Tokyo seem to love them. In other cases they are called “casual harem pants” which raises a variety of questions. What do People wear in a harem? If it is “casual” harem pants, what do “formal” harem pants look like?

For some reason, in 2020 I was bombarded with advertisements for those loose fitting jogger style pants and – because I’m a brave man of action – buckled up. I decided to buy a pair.

This pair to be precise.


I ordered the one on the left. Tastefully.

Screenshot by Mark Serrels / CNET

I bought them because I was bored and swiping through Instagram stories on a lazy Sunday night. You looked good! They were for sale! I had never bought anything from an ad on Instagram before. Let’s just do it once as a reward.

Online shopping is one of the few surefire routes to a dopamine high stuck indoors during a global pandemic. It feels good when a package arrives and it rips open like mini Christmas. I longed for this experience and paid AU $ 50 for it.

In less than a week, I imagined, I would wake up with bleary eyes to well-fitting ninja pants, just like in this Instagram ad. A future full of style and comfort beckoned in equal measure.

At least that’s what I thought.

Not only did it take my ninja pants nearly six weeks to arrive, but when they did they almost fell apart at the seams. Worse, they didn’t make me look like a ninja everything.

Big mistake

But worse than the delay, worse than the lousy product itself, what the purchase did to my social media accounts almost instantly.

Seconds after clicking “Buy” I realized that I had made a huge mistake.

Thanks to the algorithms that threatened to devour democracy and bourgeois discourse in one giant train, Instagram and Facebook assumed that – after only buying ninja pants – I didn’t want to buy anything but nInja Hosen for the rest of my life on earth.

My feed since then: Ninja Pants. Nothing but ninja pants. A Tsunami of ninja pants.


Screenshot by Mark Serrels / CNET


time to [checks notes] “modify” my “unique fashion sense”.

Screenshot by Mark Serrels / CNET

Worse, Facebook was determined to lead me through an alarmingly extreme rabbit hole made up of increasingly bizarre ninja pants that seemed to defy common sense and fashion. I was just about to meet Alex Jones from Ninja Pants.



Screenshot by Mark Serrels / CNET



Screenshot by Mark Serrels / CNET


When discussing my online purchase with friends, I found that I was not alone. Many of them had also gone under and bought ninja pants – different pants from different companies – but ninja pants nonetheless. We huddled in solidarity with ninja pants, but something strange happened.

Your ninja pants came and mine … didn’t.

I had the tracking order. A day after I bought my ninja pants, they moved from one random place in China to another in China and just … stayed there. For weeks. So I sent an email.

Yo where the hell are my ninja pants?

A few days later an answer. That was normal, sometimes it can last up to eight weeks.

Eight weeks? Eight weeks?

Then the kicker …

“As a small badge of honor and as a token of excuse,” read the e-mail, “we are offering you a 15% discount on your next order from us.”

Not only were they trying to normalize ridiculous shipping delays, but they were trying to apologize by selling me MORE ninja pants. Trust me, this is the first and last time I will buy ninja pants from anyone, let alone a company that takes eight weeks to ship pants from China to Australia.

Then – finally – after six weeks of waiting, the magic day came.

My “casual harem pants” have arrived.

And they sucked. Big time.

These things looked like $ 10 Wal-Mart pajamas. At the best. They were dramatically oversized. The material was bad, the bags felt like two plastic bags. I bought a small one (because I’m small) and these things didn’t fit anywhere near right. Worse, they were already parting at the seams.

“Oh …” said my wife as I looked into the dark abyss of ninja pants that provoked anger. “You got ripped off.”

She is right. I did. Big time. Folks, I made a big mistake.

And I still live with the consequences. To this day, Facebook and Instagram sniff my legs like horndog street dogs. They still think I’m thirsty for ninja pants and they refuse to let up. The algorithms smell like blood. You sensed weakness and are here to finish me off.

And I can’t do anything Learn from my mistakes, don’t follow the beat of this death march. I’m in Hell and ninja pants are the ill-made aesthetic of Satan himself. Scroll past these pants, swipe as fast as your fingers can swipe, and never look back.

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