Ello, My New Favorite Social Network

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I just spent $40 on a t-shirt.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent $40 on a t-shirt in my life. The t-shirt is a limited edition threadless Ello t-shirt designed by @nopattern.

I’ve been given t-shirts in the past by many social networks and sites. I have a Google+ t-shirt, I have a Facebook t-shirt, I have a Flickr t-shirt, I have a friendfeed t-shirt from back in the day. Twitter never gave me one, but that’s ok. The Ello one I bought for myself though. I like to think that this is some small way that I can help contribute towards the ad-free social experience that quickly has become my favorite of all the networks.

Over at the Atlantic Alexis Madrigal has an article out today titled “The Fall of Facebook.” In the article he describes a certain “soullessness” of Facebook and writes about the unease that people increasingly have with Facebook’s advertising network.

A few weeks ago, when the San Francisco Giants clinched the World Series, my wife took a photograph of our children and family celebrating the win. Not being particularly privacy conscious when it comes to social media, she added a name for the location, “Hawkville” without realizing that through this process she was creating a new permanent “place” on Facebook that was geotagging our home.

Friends quickly liked both the post and the new “place” and in a matter of hours we were much more public on Facebook than I wanted to be. After realizing that she’d made this mistake, my wife removed the location tag from the photo – but what she couldn’t remove was the new permanent “place” on Facebook, “Hawkville,” which geotagged our home’s exact and precise location against our wishes.

Because I’ve had issues with impersonation on Facebook in the past and I suppose because I have a larger than average social media following, previously I’d been given a link to a special sort of VIP customer service area at Facebook.

Although I was disturbed that there seemed to be no way to remove my geotagged home from Facebook, I figured it would just take reaching out to this VIP customer service group to get the geotag deleted — unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. The Facebook employee who responded to me told me that she was unable to delete the page “Hawkville” or remove the geotag of my personal and private residence.

I next made a post on Facebook about the unfairness of this. Just because my wife made a mistake and geotagged our home, why should that mistake be irreversible? Shouldn’t I have more control over my personal residence on Facebook? Does Facebook believe in doxing? Why were my wife and I locked out of this page, unable to control this personal data? Why had Facebook created a “place” of a personal residence in the first place and why wasn’t my wife warned at the time that by geotagging our home she was permanently and irrevocably adding our location data to Facebook with no way to remove it?

After several posts and further attempts to contact the Facebook VIP customer service department, about a week later I went to a group of Facebook employees who I know personally and I was able to get the geotag removed (although not the place). I really appreciate the personal help that I was given to get this done (I really do), but the fact of the matter is that I shouldn’t have had to go that route to have my personal information removed from Facebook.

I’ve been increasingly disappointed with my experience on Facebook. I find that fewer and fewer of my friends are seeing what I post and engagement is increasingly going down.

I’m seeing more and more “sponsored” posts and advertising crowding out organic content, which probably plays a part in this… or maybe my photography just sucks and is way less interesting to the people who follow me there.

Sponsored posts are the worst as far as I’m concerned. At least with an ad over in the right hand column, I can try to ignore it. A sponsored post shoves itself right into your face though. Time and again I’ve caught myself reading the first few lines of a sponsored post before realizing I’m reading one and then have that terrible feeling I get when I realize I’ve just been suckered for few seconds into an ad.

More than this though, I feel like Facebook doesn’t really care about me. I feel like I’m being targeted and manipulated and probed and studied. I don’t feel like my content there is valued. There *is* a certain soullessness to the place. I’m not sure what can be done about that, it’s just what it feels like to me.

I also feel like photography doesn’t really matter at Facebook. Photos are super small and optimized for mobile, rather than big and glorious and optimized for the web. I get that Facebook has to pay for storage for our photos, but with all of the advertising and personal data they collect to target us, don’t they have even just a few nickels or dimes to make the photos just a tiny bit larger in the feed? Yes, I know that someone can click through and see it larger, but most people don’t and won’t and so your art is presented in an unfavorable small way to the 0.1% of your followers who might actually see it in their feed.

My experience so far at Ello has been the opposite.

At Ello I’ve found an idealistic group of artists, photographers and thinkers who dare to imagine a different, better way. I’ve found some of the freshest, most creative and most interesting art that I’ve seen in years online. There are no ads. Ello is not tracking my information to try and sell it to advertisers.

The founders and operators of Ello come across as creative, innovative, accessible, enthusiastic and engaged. I feel respect for my content on Ello, which is shown large in full high res glory. This is why I put more of myself into my art and photography on Ello than any other site. The respect feels greater.

I’ve met so many new and interesting friends on Ello. I’m settling in there realizing that this will be the place that I will share and communicate online with people going forward more than anywhere else. It feels like I’m hanging out with some really interesting artists in a nice cozy little café in Marfa, Texas with amazing coffee and music — rather than being lost, wandering aimlessly around the world’s largest Walmart, being told not to take photos in the store by some security guard.

Forbes says that the number one social media marketing trend that will dominate 2015 will be the rise of Ello. Rather than rely on crappy paid advertisements on Facebook going forward, Fashionista writes about how brands will actually have to create interesting, creative content to be seen on social networks like Ello in the future.

So is this new network worth $40? You’d better believe it is. Plus I get an awesome new t-shirt to go with the Marfa Public Radio one I bought just last week.

Do you like art and photography and architecture and design and creative thinking? Then come hangout on ello. You’ll find me most days online over there at http://ello.co/thomashawk

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