Diagnostic advertisements: The phantom disabilities created by social media surveillance


  • Amy Gaeta




This article examines the use of algorithms to target consumers on social media for health and medical product advertising to tell users directly or indirectly what is ’wrong’ with them. The algorithms behind these ads are creating phantom disabled consumers that they project onto real disabled and nondisabled users via advertisements. I call these ads ‘diagnostic advertisements’ to underscore how the concepts of diagnosis and algorithms share similar aims to cure and control. This essay asks: What might the rise of diagnostic advertisements mean for the social status of disabled people and disabled users’ sense of self? I develop and use the method of ‘crip autotheory’ to argue that the ads are an important window into the larger issue of the intensification of the medicalization of everyday life; a process that entails the normalization of surveillance and commodification of personal health.



2023-01-16 — Updated on 2023-02-07


How to Cite

Gaeta, A. (2023). Diagnostic advertisements: The phantom disabilities created by social media surveillance. First Monday, 28(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v28i1.12913 (Original work published January 16, 2023)



1. Through quantification, measurement, and categorization, information systems often intensify both the surveillance and erasure of disabled people