I came across an online quiz from Hitchcock Farms. The farm conducted a nationwide survey to see what people know about fruits and veggies. According to their survey of 3,725 respondents, two thirds of South Carolinians can’t identify everyday fruit and vegetables. That seems incredible. Other stats show 2/3 of respondents had no clue how pineapples grow and only 36% could identify the food presented in the pictures.

Other disconcerting stats were Americans incorporate fruit and vegetables into their diet just 4.6 times a week. That’s less than one piece a day. The good news is over 1/2 of people surveyed believe there should be an increase in urban agriculture.

But this is where my research took a completely different path.

Bear with me.

Last week my daughter and I were having a conversation over our personal Iphones. She’s in L.A., I’m outside the office. It’s just the two of us chatting away, and mind you, nowhere near a computer. Our chat turned to the subject of dairy and my daughter said she is now drinking oat milk. I’ve never heard of oat milk. I’ve never conducted a Google search for it. I haven’t spoken the word “oat” in years. We discussed the subject for one moment then we were on to something else. I didn’t think about it again.

Three hours later I’m writing the fruits and veggies column and I Google “Why don’t we eat more fruits and vegetables.” I find a website that discusses the issue and as I’m reading through the article my jaw dropped. There, on my office computer, is a popup ad for, you guessed it, oat milk. I am in disbelief. I took a picture of it - just in case - for evidence. Is my phone listening to my conversations and then in some kind of shadowy matrix translating my words into advertising targeted at me from any computer I use? I am frightened.

Immediately I call my friend who is a local cyber security expert and he didn’t make me feel better. He also agreed our phones are eavesdropping. So I started researching if this is true. Everything I found was about ads popping up on people’s social media sites.

I watched a news show that interviewed people who told their stories. A woman describes a face-to-face chat with her mother about pink flamingos. She had her phone in-her-hand. Hours later ads showing where to purchase the plastic pink bird, cups and glassware starting popping up on her FB page.

An expert says we’ve been Googling a long time and all the info is collected in a database. But now our voice has become one of those inputs. He said there’s a solution. We just have to cut off the pipeline to the marketers. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. You have to go into your privacy settings on each site, such as Facebook or Instagram or app and turn off the microphone. And that’s just the beginning. Maybe I should buy a smart speaker like Google Home or Alexa to instruct me on how to do it. Is that a good idea or would my privacy be even more compromised? I bet they already know the answer.

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