It’s fair to state that the main source of daily annoyance for human beings is other human beings. They’re relentless in their vanity, cruelty, monotony, vulgarity and inadequacy, and yet social networks are dedicated to connecting us with as many of these dunderheads as possible.
No wonder the act of complaining about social media has become endemic, particularly on social media. We have become weary of it. The idea of “connecting with new people” has started to make us shudder with horror, and as a result we’ve found ourselves forced to take emergency measures. We block, we filter, we mute, and, in extreme cases, we flounce. And boy, flouncing feels good. The people we’ve flounced away from might think that we’re being excessively uppity, but as a way of unburdening ourselves from annoying behaviour and starting afresh, it can’t be beat. And look, this seems like the perfect place to start afresh: a new(ish) social network called Ello.
Ello is not Facebook and it’s not Twitter, and for many people that’s enough to sell them the idea. Its aims are wholesome: you won’t find ads on the service (it aims to pay for itself by selling premium features, whatever they may turn out to be), your behaviour won’t be tracked (although it does use anonymised analytics to help improve the service) and you can call yourself whatever the hell you like.
In the aftermath of a recent furore surrounding Facebook forbidding transgender people and drag performers from using pseudonyms, Ello became the place for them to flee to, and since then a word-of-mouth process has prompted a huge number of sign-ups.
It’s clear that the vast majority of people on Facebook don’t care about anonymity, privacy or advertising, but Ello theoretically offers a home for those that do – and also for those who, through grim experience, simply believe that fewer connections is better.
Most new services allow you to connect to Facebook, or Twitter, or your contacts book, to scan for people you’re already connected to and re-establish those connections. Ello, rather wonderfully, doesn’t do that. Its search facility doesn’t currently work, either. So if you’re going to make connections, you’ve got to work at it. You certainly won’t end up “friends” with anyone by default – but you also might not end up with many friends at all. Which is rather refreshing, but at the same time so antithetical to the spirit of social media – of sharing content and leaving comments – that you end up staring at Ello and wondering what the point of it is. It’s also currently in beta, so there are flaws and obvious omissions, e.g. you can’t block abusive accounts. They’re working on it, apparently. Ello may not be Facebook, but it’s not a Facebook killer. It can’t be. It’s just too small.
Headlines have described how Ello has “exploded in popularity”, but that’s not strictly true. Sign-ups don’t equal popularity; sign-ups are merely curiosity. For the time being, Ello is about us wearily filling in yet another user profile – choosing a username, uploading an avatar and finding a pithy way to describe ourselves – as we search for an online home that’s not annoying. But maybe that doesn’t exist. Human beings are annoying, and human beings are perpetually appearing on the horizon. Escape is useless. Resistance is futile. Articles entitled “The 20 Things Your Most Annoying Friends Do on Ello” may only be a few months away.