Does “Closure” really bring the relief we seek? – Donna L Roberts, PhD (Psych Pstuff)

by Dr. Donna Roberts

Photo by Benedikt Geyer on Unsplash

Source: Does “Closure” really bring the relief we seek? – Donna L Roberts, PhD (Psych Pstuff) – Medium

 

The Story

Carmela enters … “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world, she took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”

Cut to Tony … “Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit, he took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”

Suddenly, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ is abruptly silenced and the screen cuts to black …

When the highly anticipated finale of the HBO series The Sopranos aired fans reeled. Not because their beloved Tony was killed, but because, well, they weren’t sure whether he was or not.

It was a cliffhanger. But cliffhangers are not supposed to happen in the finale of a long-running series.

The debate raged on blogs, on talk-shows, on media pages and certainly over cocktails. So much so that David Chase, creator of the series and director of the last episode, was called on to explain himself and settle the deliberation once and for all. And he did … but not really … saying things like “Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point. To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer,” and, “Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.” Even when asked directly if Tony was shot in the last scene, he replied, “I’m not saying anything. I’m not trying to be coy. It’s just that I think that to explain it would diminish it.”

Hmm …

Chase has never answered the one burning question of that final scene — not in the interview the morning after the finale aired and not in any of his numerous public comments since the show ended over eight years ago. He has explained, in great detail, the symbolism he used and how he employed various elements to subtly create tension in the last scene. But what he won’t say, no matter how it is asked or how much we need to know, is what happened at the end.

But that doesn’t mean the fans have let it go. On the eight year anniversary of The Sopranos finale, one blogger posted a new and updated Sopranos: Definitive Explanation of the Final Scene Annotated Guide where every shot of the final scene is analyzed in detail, and references are made to prophetic quotes from previous seasons. Comments continue to be posted on that site, reflecting on his observations and continuing the debate.

But why, eight years later, why are we still asking the question we have been told repeatedly will never be definitely answered, about a fictional character anyway?

In this, as in many of our human endeavors, we have an undeniable desire to “close the loop,” to tie up the package with a pretty bow, or at least a string with a tight knot, and put it on the shelf, accessible if we need, but out of the way of our daily endeavors. In short, the stories we tell — from our entertainment to our real-life relationships to justice for wrongdoing — we want unfinished business finished.

Closure, or more accurately the lack of, is often blamed for our inability to move on and, thus, sought as the Holy Grail that will set our minds at ease. Even heal us.

But does closure really bring the relief we seek? Does it really do all it promises to? Can justice heal the wounds of loss? Can just knowing make the bad somehow more ok?

In a word: sometimes. It depends. On what? On whether or not we have done the emotional work to accompany it.

Seeking closure can become an intellectual pursuit, a distraction, a physical reality that tricks the mind and heart into thinking we are actively addressing a problem, pain, the cruel randomness and injustice of the human condition, when all we are really doing is, in a sense, wallowing.

Is the closure of a diagnosis really better? Most people say so, even if it is bad news. And yet closure doesn’t necessarily relieve the symptoms, it simply changes our perceptions of them. Closure means the mind can relax — oh it’s that. OK, now I know what I am dealing with. Now I can move on.

From the whimsical to the serious, the need to know and know with finality, is so strong it will drive us to seek the unanswerable and run off tilting at windmills.

Psych Pstuff’s Summary

Psychologically speaking, what we call closure is actually referred to as the need for cognitive closure (NFCC). It is generally defined as both the desire for definitive answers and the corresponding aversion to ambiguity. For psychologists it is, like so many other traits, considered a defining and relatively stable aspect of character. In short, you either crave it or you don’t and if you do, you really, really crave it.

Also like many things in psychology, researchers have struggled to quantify the need for closure — in psych speak, to operationalize it — so they can compare apples with apples. The Need for Closure Scale (NFCS) was developed by researchers Arie Kruglanski, Donna Webster, and Adena Klem in 1993 as a standard way to measure the concept and compare individuals along this trait. The NFCS is a forty-seven-item test that measures five separate motivational facets that comprise our underlying affinity for clarity and resolution. These include the preference for (1) order; (2) predictability; and (3) decisiveness; and a corresponding (4) discomfort with ambiguity; and (5) closed-mindedness. Taken together, these elements indicate one’s level of need for closure. You can take an online version of this test at terpconnect.umd.edu.

The problem with an unbridled pursuit of closure is that it tends to be paradoxical and feeds into our general fear of the unknown. According to Kruglanski, the need for closure exerts its effects via two general tendencies — the urgency tendency (the inclination to attain closure as quickly as possible) and the permanence tendency (the tendency to maintain it for as long as possible). Together, these tendencies may cause us to embrace a solution or make a judgment without considering all the possibilities. In short, needing an answer too desperately can cause us to accept any answer as soon as it comes along, simply to resolve the anxiety. This can block the way to finding a better alternative.

Needing an answer too desperately can cause us to accept any answer as soon as it comes along, simply to resolve the anxiety. This can block the way to finding a better alternative.

In popular psychology today the term most often refers to a proposed goal state in the process of overcoming grief or responding to tragedy. Its lure is certainly understandable. Faced with loss there is a natural tendency to desire a resolution to all things disrupted when one’s world is turned upside down. It may be comforting to imagine there is something concrete to be done that will set things somehow right again and help us to move on to a new normal.

However, for many, this fantasized state of resolution is elusive and the very thing we think will bring peace of mind and clarity is, in fact, an empty promise. Counting too much on the achievement of an external milestone to bring comfort and balance after a loss without engaging in the required internal grief work only leaves one feeling empty and still full of unresolved emotions. Certain overt actions can be symbolic and hold the power of ritual, but they are only as effective as a culmination of a larger process of healing and insight.

Some therapists maintain that true closure is a myth and impossible to achieve. They argue that instead of trying to find closure, which may never be possible, it more psychologically healthy to pursue meaning, even if there is no final “end” or resolution.

Hmm … that sounds a bit like what David Chase said in response to the “whatever happened to Tony” questions.

While it might be perfectly natural and part of our psychological makeup to desire resolution, learning how to be comfortable with not having all the answers can lead to deeper personal growth. Learning how to tolerate ambiguity — in fiction and in reality — strengthens one’s ability to tolerate the anxiety and uncertainty that is an inevitable part of the human condition.

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If at First You Don’t “Succeed” . . . Fail, Fail, Again

by Dr. Donna Roberts

Source: If at First You Don’t “Succeed” . . . Fail, Fail, Again

The Story

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
— Michael Jordan

Success. We all want it. But just what is it? How do you get it? How do you really know when you’ve reached it?

1923 was quite a year for baseball legend Babe Ruth. He broke the record for the most home runs in a season. He also broke the record for the highest batting average. And, he struck out more times than any other player in Major League Baseball. In fact, he accumulated a whopping 1,330 career strike outs — a record he held for 29 years until it was broken by none other than the highly successful Mickey Mantle.

Most of us certainly want to hit the home runs, but without the strike-outs. Turns out, it doesn’t work that way.

Turns out, it’s all about perception. Some of the greatest success stories, viewed from another angle, are profiles in failure. It’s just that they didn’t believe that. They wouldn’t believe that. And they didn’t stop there. They moved on to succeed.

Consider the profiles of these two entrepreneurs:

1. College dropout. Fired from a high level executive position. Unsuccessful businessman, launching several expensive product failures.

2. Revolutionized six industries (personal computers, animated movies, phones, music, tablet computing, and digital publishing). Founded one of the most successful companies in the world.

As you may have guessed, these descriptions both refer to the same person — the iconic Steve Jobs. He changed the world, but he didn’t always have the Midas touch. He failed, miserably. And succeeded, profoundly.

Generally, we consider failure a bad thing — success’s ugly stepsister. We try to avoid it. We hide ours in shame. We pretend it never happened. Or, worse yet, we quit trying because of it.

We consider failure a bad thing — success’s ugly stepsister. We try to avoid it. We hide ours in shame. We pretend it never happened. Or, worse yet, we quit trying because of it.

The art world is rife with examples — Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Johannes Vermeer — of famous artists who were unrecognized, or outright rejected in their time, only later to be lauded as brilliantly creative and talented. Literature too has its share of later recognized geniuses who were misfits to their contemporaries, including Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson. Even scientists who contributed some of the greatest discoveries — Gregor Mendel, Nicholas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei — were rejected by their peers and often publically humiliated.

It seems a bit elusive, this success thing. After all, if Poe and Van Gogh and Galileo couldn’t pull it off with their peers, do we stand a chance?

It begs the question, is success really success if you are not recognized for it?

Psych Pstuff’s Summary

We’ve all heard the old adage, If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Like many clichés, there is sage advice buried in that maxim.

Psychologists have long been interested in individual differences and particularly why one person succeeds, while another with similar resources and opportunities does not. In 1907, William James, one of the founding fathers of psychology, wrote, “Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental resources … men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.”

In modern psychological studies the concept of grit has been identified as setting apart the achievers from the non-achievers, as part of a growing movement to examine the role of non-cognitive skills (i.e., things other than standard measures of intelligence) in various aspects of success. While once IQ was considered the holy grail of measurements that determined an individual’s fate, now we are not so confident about that singular, and controversial metric.

In general, these researchers define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. They recognize that “Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”

Of course psychologists want to measure this thing they call grit and thus have developed The Grit Scale.

How gritty are you? Take the online test and find out.

Collectively, these studies have concluded that the achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but also the diligent, sustained and focused application of abilities over time.

We all have that kind of perseverance when we are very young. If we didn’t only some of us would ever learn to walk. Slowly, that kind of initiative, that natural pick-yourself-up, dust-yourself-off and start-all-over-again momentum becomes tempered by the judgments of others and morphs into a fear of failure, which unchecked, can become a fear of trying anything at all. Psychologists even have a diagnostic label for the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure — Atychiphobia.

Much of what makes our lives meaningful, much of what we spend our time pursuing when we can choose what to do with our hours, is subjective and esoteric. What is deemed success in these realms — friendship, charity, entertainment, just to name a few — is highly personal and idiosyncratic.

One criticism of the studies is that the researchers are concerned exclusively with objective accomplishments, such as vocational achievements, that are judged to have worth in the eyes of others and subject to collective goals and measurements. But much of what makes our lives meaningful, much of what we spend our time pursuing when we can choose what to do with our hours, is subjective and esoteric. What is deemed success in these realms — friendship, charity, entertainment, just to name a few — is highly personal and idiosyncratic.

This leads us to ask ourselves, is it internal or external recognition that comprises true success?

Famed guru of positive psychology, ‎Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, considered the concept of flow as the optimal experience. He defined flow as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

The philosophical question then becomes, is happiness enough of a measure of success, or do we need the external accoutrements of fame and fortune?

Either way you slice it, as an intensely personal or highly public measure, success is neither guaranteed, nor permanent.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some psychologists argue that not only do some individuals succeed despite obstacles and failures, but rather, becauseof them. In other words, the notion that failure is the opposite of success, as we are taught, is just plain wrong. Instead, what has been labeled, in all its judgmental glory, as failure, can be considered a necessary stepping stone to greater success. Just ask Michael Jordan.

The Persuasive Power of Words — Media Psychology 

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

by Dr. Donna Roberts

Source: The Persuasive Power of Words — Media Psychology – Donna L Roberts, PhD (Psych Pstuff) – Medium

The Story

Newly landed in Italy, we gorged ourselves on everything Italian. The sights, sounds and food were all to die for. Pizza, pasta and peperonata became our daily fare. Even the local cats and dogs could be seen enjoying huge bowls of spaghetti. The country, the weather and the food were all delicious. Not to speak of the wonderful wine … but I digress.

Soon after arriving, we decided to explore the sites and do a little shopping. We were in one of the world’s fashion capitals after all — what could possibly go wrong? My spouse needed some lighter, brighter shirts to replace the heavy, checkered lumberjack style he’d favored in Canada. The latest fashionable color at the time in Italy was melone, a lobster shade we both adored.

So, one evening, after yet another delectable meal, we strolled into a village clothing store to admire the venerable selection. Each shirt was displayed in its own beautiful box, cushioned in a cloud of designer tissue paper. Too pretty to touch, really. The salesperson lovingly unwrapped each shirt and artfully displayed the array on the counter in front of us. One by one, she laid out a series of progressively beautiful (and increasingly expensive) melon colored shirts. Finally, sensing that we were hooked, she told us that a most exquisite shirt had just come in, but in a different color — salmone.

Out came the ultimate shirt and it did not leave us wanting. The fabric, the stitching, the cut — it was all intoxicating, as only Italian fashion can be. But the salmon color of the shirt? Well, it was identical to the melon colored shirts. Precisely the same! The price, however, was considerably higher.

No one spoke of this out loud. Yet each of us knew that, to justify the exorbitant price, the salesperson had changed the name to a more chic sounding version of the hue.

Naturally, we were tickled pink to leave with the chic salmon shirt in our designer shopping bag. Was there ever any doubt?

Psych Pstuff’s Summary

Learning to speak and use language is one of the major milestones of childhood. From that time on we are honing the skill — learning how to use words effectively to get our needs met and make our thoughts and feelings known. Written or spoken it is the instrument we use for human connection.

In “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare challenged us with the question:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.

But was Shakespeare right? Is a name just a name? Or is it more?

Turns out it is a whole lot more.

Words have both denotative and connotative meanings. The denotative meaning is the straightforward definition, what you would consider the dictionary definition. It’s clear, logical, factual and therefore doesn’t have much impact beyond basic understanding of information.

Connotative meanings are more open to individual interpretation. They encompass all the associations and emotions that are conjured up by a word. They can be complex and even paradoxical. While the denotative meaning of a word is generally the same for all, the connotative meanings can vary widely based on experience, personality and context.

The word home is a good example of how these categorizations can differ in impact. Denotatively, home is simply a place of residence, a structure for shelter. It is the connotative meaning that embraces all the things that home means to us — whether good or bad.

Some words, by nature tend to be fairly innocuous — jelly, wood, cup — although even these, if tied to a strong enough memory, can be impactful for some. Others — war, mother, dog — inherently seem to carry a weight far beyond their syntax.

Through denotative meanings we can share information. Through connotative meanings we can share the full realm of human experience.

Through denotative meanings we can share information. Through connotative meanings we can share the full realm of human experience.

Advertisers, for example, count on this distinction and use it to attempt to persuade consumers to behave in certain ways — namely to buy a particular product usually on merits beyond its denotative purpose. They either use existing universal connotations to attach to a product or brand or they create scenarios which establish new connections and ingrain new connotations.

Just think of these two words — Fiat and Mercedes. On the surface both are just brands of automobiles, which are themselves just means of transportation. However, one generally has significantly different feelings about them. If I asked you which one you would rather have parked in your driveway, you would probably have a clear preference.

Authors too use the connotative power of words to connect people, to broaden our minds to the experiences of others — real or imagined — who are both like us and unlike us, to both relate to our common experience and to share a glimpse of that which may be a wholly different experience.

So, the question remains, is there a difference between a melone shirt and a salmone one? The choice is yours — the meaning is in the mind of the beholder.

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Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis — Media Psychology

The dark side of the hyper-colored American Dream. (Illustrations by Kobie Nieuwoudt) One of America’s most popular business opportunities is financially jeopardizing millions. Source: Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis WRITTEN BY Alden Wicker “I was urged to stop paying my bills to invest in more inventory. I was […]

via Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis — consumer psychology research

Generation, Generation, Generation 

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

 

by Dr. Donna Roberts

Source: Generation, Generation, Generation – Donna L Roberts, PhD – Medium

In real estate it’s all about Location, Location, Location. In the quest to understand ourselves and others, we are at least partially defined by our Generation, Generation, Generation.

While we all strive to express our individuality, the truth is, in many ways we are more alike than different, especially when you pull back the focus of the microscope and consider the context of our cohort.

It’s largely because of the communal meaning we attached to some things, events, or inventions — the must-have toy of the time (a moment of silence, please, for all those injured in the Christmas quest for a Cabbage Patch Doll or Tickle Me Elmo), the where-were-you-when events like the Challenger explosion or the OJ trial, or the state-of-the-art discovery you once only dreamed of like the CD-ROM, the artificial heart, the 3D printer. Like it or not, our lives, or at least some moment in the history thereof, come to be defined by what was happening in the pop culture.

Like it or not, our lives, or at least some moment in the history thereof, come to be defined by what was happening in the pop culture.

If you say Daisywheel printer, for some it holds no meaning because they are too old school for anything associated with computers. For some it holds no meaning because their only experience with it is a display in the Smithsonian, or worse yet, in a historical piece on Wikipedia. And then there is the golden group for which daisy wheel printers bring a smile to the face. For them (ahem … us) it is a fond remembrance of being set free from the captivity of the typewriter and its associated correction fluid and into a world of easy corrections and formatting — think Bank Street Writer on the Commodore 64 (Eeek! I know, I know).

And the VCR … oh the VCR. I remember the instant popularity of the kid (name withheld to protect the innocent) on my block who had the first VCR in his family room. No longer did we have to wait for the TV version or the local cinema to re-run a movie, prisoners of their schedule. We could all pile up on his couch on Friday night and run a marathon of our choice. We could even fast forward through the boring parts and rewind for the good scenes. Wow! We were really living then!

You can’t give this level of understanding or emotional reaction to another generation. As singularly awesome as it was, no one can make me feel the awe of Woodstock experienced by that generation. To me it is another casually interesting historical fact. Culturally significant, yes, but an emotionally dead fact to me nonetheless. Like my Daisywheel is to those born into the luxury of laser printers.

I can’t make any young person really understanding how cool (despite labor intensive and wholly imperfect) it was to wait by the radio for just the right song, hoping you get the timing right and that the DJ does not interject too much, to make a cassette tape for our newest crush. The downloading, file splicing, remastering masters will just not “get it.”

We tend to think there is something singularly wholesome about that magical point in time and that despite the gains of progress, something was also lost. It is, in a sense I guess, how we process the loss. It was good. We were there. At least we have that.

Of course, not all is as benevolent as the Daisywheel and the VCR. Some cohorts can be defined by the tragedy that took hold of a community or society — a natural or manmade disaster — the war years, the famine years, the Ted Bundy years. Each teaches us collectively about the dark side of life.

Good or bad, the experiences of a cohort shape us. They are part of what we have cobbled together as the definition of this thing we call life.

Good or bad, the experiences of a cohort shape us. They are part of what we have cobbled together as the definition of this thing we call life. In some ways it reflects the uneasy randomness of life — the fact that I was impressionable at just the time that Bart Simpson (versus Eric Cartman) became an icon. Imagine — Bart’s trademark “Eat my shorts!” line was considered scandalous. Yet another example in the “does art imitate life or life imitate art” debate. What is cutting edge defines the direction we are taking, albeit with the requisite detours, of course. It defines what we will accept as norm and what we will question.

We all want to think we are more complex than a collage of the span of years in which we were coming of age, and we certainly are. Focusing the microscope again back down to the individual, we see our unique selves. But just throw up a pic of the popular band when you were in high school or the now discontinued candy that was the rage when you were 10 and see how many likes you get on Facebook from your partners in the crime of youth. I bet it strikes a nerve … and brings a sense of yearning to the heart.

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When brands tempt us to lie, cheat and steal — Media Psychology

A new study shows that when consumers believe that a company is harmful in some way, then they feel justified participating in illegal activities, such as shoplifting, piracy or hacking to harm the company. Source: When brands tempt us to lie, cheat and steal SOCIETY FOR CONSUMER PSYCHOLOGY While many people consider themselves generally […]

via When brands tempt us to lie, cheat and steal — consumer psychology research

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THE 7 KEY TRENDS IMPACTING TODAY’S WORKPLACE – Media Psychology

TINYhr presents the 2014 Employee Engagement & Organizational Culture Report, findings gathered from 200,000+ employee responses and 500+ organizations. Source: 2014 Employee Engagement & Organizational Culture Report | TINYpulse EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TINYpulse provides an ongoing employee engagement pulse survey to over 500 organizations worldwide. After analyzing over 200,000 anonymous employee responses, we arrived at one […]

via THE 7 KEY TRENDS IMPACTING TODAY’S WORKPLACE – Results from the 2014 Employee Engagement & Organizational Culture Report  — behavioraleconomicsresearch

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The 6 Jobs Everyone Will Want in 2040 — Media Psychology

What the kids of tomorrow can look forward to. Source: The 6 Jobs Everyone Will Want in 2040 By KRISTEN BAHLER If you’re a new parent, or prone to abstract theorizing, you’ve probably spent some late nights wondering what the future holds for job seekers. In 2040, the babies born today will be at […]

via The 6 Jobs Everyone Will Want in 2040 — behavioraleconomicsresearch

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The Psychology Behind the Sharing Economy – Media Psychology

The psychological drivers behind the sharing economy provide valuable insights for marketers in any industry. Source: The Consumer Psychology Behind the Sharing Economy—What Marketers Must Know Nicola Brown March 2, 2018 It hardly needs stating that one of the biggest consumer trends of the past decade has been the rise of the sharing economy. […]

via The Consumer Psychology Behind the Sharing Economy—What Marketers Must Know — behavioraleconomicsresearch

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Calling BS on Facebook’s PR Ruse

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In March 2018, Facebook announced they would no longer integrate with third-party data providers that enable marketers to create targeted audiences on its platform as a response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Consequently, I wrote an article about this entitled Facebook’s Red Herring, because that is exactly what it was–a very artful distraction and attempt to deceive consumers into believing Facebook’s action was about addressing their privacy. But that is not what it was about.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal was about data leaving Facebook and being used in ways that were not authorized by participants of the survey. The decision to dissolve third-party data partnerships is about data that goes into Facebook to segment audiences for relevant targeting. However, what consumers have not seen the same publicity on is that Facebook has modified their stance on third-party partnerships so their data can still be used. The point I made in my article is that Facebook demonized third-party data providers in the press by announcing their dissolution of partnerships while avoiding the same public scrutiny around the real reason for their action.

Marketers can still append third-party data, which is compiled by a vendor to provide context, to a customer or prospect outside of Facebook and then ‘onboard it’ for digital marketing. Marketers simply need to sign an agreement with an onboarding provider that includes Facebook’s new terms and conditions. They can then append third-party information to customer lists and create target groups, or they obtain prospect lists of their target groups from a third-party data provider. From there advertisers onboard that data and upload it via Campaign Manager to Facebook. Some onboarders such as LiveRamp have third-party data available in their platforms so prospect audiences can be created and pushed to Facebook without the need to purchase the prospect list with personally identifiable information (PII) from the third-party data provider.

Regardless of how the marketer goes about it, once data is onboarded or audiences are created in an onboarding platform, they can be activated (used for media purchase) on Facebook. Voilá – third party data is still being used on Facebook. Facebook’s move to divorce themselves from third-party data did not mean it couldn’t be used, they are just requiring an additional step that many marketers are already proficiently executing.

If you are unfamiliar with how consumer data onboarding works, here is a short explanation: Consumer data onboarders like LiveRamp, Neustar and Oracle move offline marketing lists containing PII such as CRM data, loyalty databases, prospecting lists, etc., to the online ecosystem and match or link (via a common identifier such as email address) to cookies and device IDs in a privacy-compliant manner. The reason this matching is considered privacy compliant is because consumer PII is anonymized. Marketers never receive which specific cookies and device IDs are associated with the consumer profile.

Onboarders can connect consumer PII to cookies because they visit websites that are part of the onboarder’s network where consumers have provided permission to share their information with third parties. One example of a website that collects consumer PII and online attributes such as cookies, device IDs, etc. is Tripit. When you create an account on Tripit, you provide information that associates a cookie or device ID with your PII. If you look at Tripit’s privacy policy under “Cookies, Analytics and Tracking”, it expressly states: “…providers may also automatically collect the above information about you through the App and on other sites and services, including personally identifiable information about your online activities over time and across different websites, devices, online services, and applications when you use our App. Some third parties help us and others associate your activities across the browsers and devices you use, or that your household uses, for retargeting, cross-device advertising, analytics, and measurement purposes”. Because an onboarded list will include PII, it can be matched to a cookie/device ID if a website with these permissions are in the onboarder’s network of partner contributors.

Sorry dear consumer, Facebook’s dissolution of third-party data partnerships continues to be a red herring and does not prevent such data from being used on their platform. Furthermore, Facebook continues to collect and store first-party data (i.e., owned by them) on you that advertisers can leverage for target audience creation; and they have those rights because it is buried in the required terms and conditions you consented to when your account was created.

So, while Facebook has demonized third-party data in the press right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal (even though completely unrelated to the latter’s dubious use), they have not prevented its use. Frankly, I find Facebook’s use of first-party data and passive surveillance via their pixel on other websites resulting in those creepy retargeting advertisements much more intrusive then my being a member of a target audience based on my demographics and other modeled assumptions.

Consumer trust is the new “oil” in today’s data economy, and it requires more than lip service. Perhaps it is time for Facebook to figure that out.