The Algorithm Got Me: Reviewing Stuff We Bought Because of Social Media

You know those ads that populate your social media feed?  The ones that seem targeted towards you, sometimes to the point of creepiness?  (Honestly, I’m certain my Alexa is listening to me so Amazon can target me even more effectively. That’s why she lives in the kitchen where she will mostly hear me singing Lizzo and swearing at the stove.) Occasionally, when we’re feeling low or just want to shop, we get sucked into purchasing a product that’s been advertised to us on social media.  

Then we tell you about it.  

What: Bite Toothpaste bits

DISCLAIMER:  I have not been paid to write about these, nor did I get a discount.  These were an impulse buy after watching that grinning blonde woman bite into her toothpaste pellet one too many times.  If I’d received them for free or cheap, you’d know.  

I think I passed this ad at least 90 times before I gave in to the clickbait.

Bite Toothpaste Bits are marketed as a “plastic-free, all-natural way to replace the past you’ve used your whole life.” They come in a glass jar, with refills sent in a compostable pouch.  A one-month bottle with 62 tablets is $12, or a 4-month subscription with 248 tablets is available for $30. I opted for the subscription because I’m cheap and spending an average of $7.50 a month seemed like a better idea at 2 am.

Bits come in 2 flavors, Charcoal Mint or Mint, which I’m pretty sure taste exactly the same. I ordered the Mint, because I think the charcoal toothpaste trend is just a way to make toothpaste weirder and more expensive. 

Why: I decided to try these for a few reasons.

  • I am trying (very slowly) to move away from as many single-use plastics as I can. 
  • They seem like they’d be much easier when traveling.  
  • Impulse shopping has gotten much duller and cheaper as I’ve aged.  

Results:

So exciting!

My jar of toothpaste tablets arrived about a week after ordering, which is exactly what I expected after reading their data about shipping. They don’t rush ship and offer data from MIT’s Environmental Analysis of US Online Shopping to show how online shopping without rush shipping has a lower carbon footprint than traditional brick and mortar big box stores. The packaging was lovely and plastic-free. 

I’m a sucker for packaging. This passes the test.

Opening the jar of Bits smelled exactly like opening a new tin of Altoids. If you like mint, which you probably do if you’re brushing your teeth with mint-flavored toothpaste, it’s a really lovely scent. The jar is full right to the top, which made me feel like it’s even less wasteful.

See? Full up!

When I bit into my first Bit, it crumbled and felt gritty for a second, which made me wonder if this was going to be like brushing with gravel, but it only took a moment to foam up and feel just like traditional toothpaste. After brushing, my teeth felt nice and clean and my mouth felt fresh, just like with traditional toothpaste. I would call these a success!

Of course, there are some downsides to the toothpaste tablets. If you run out, you’re stuck with regular toothpaste until you order and receive a new shipment, and since they don’t rush-ship, those of us who don’t plan ahead well might be left hanging. It’s also not a particularly cheap option. Tubes of toothpaste are quite a bit cheaper and you aren’t forced to use a premeasured amount like you are with the bits. 

There’s also a downside to clicking on the ad directly from social media. The minute I clicked in my Facebook feed, my ad profile apparently changed significantly.  For about a week afterwards, all I saw was marketing for reusable sandwich and produce bags, beeswax food wrappers, ThredUp subscription boxes, and toiletries. (Really, Charmin?  You think I want an industrial-sized roll of toilet paper?) Facebook is very, very determined to make the most of our personal data, and it was on blatant display here.

Conclusions:

If the price tag doesn’t scare you off and you sign up for the automatic subscription, toothpaste bits are a nice way to eliminate one more single-use plastic. However, unless you’re ok with a massive uptick in ads for toilet paper and anything marketed as “zero waste,” go search out the website on a private browser and don’t click through from your social media feed.