Why I’m Switching From Facebook To Ello

Since Facebook announced that it was going to suspend accounts unless users used their legal names earlier this month, many people have been looking for a new place to socialize, and Ello has been gaining traction. Ello is another status-based, at-reply-based social network, with a minimalist aesthetic and, mostly importantly, no ads, and anonymized data gathering with the opportunity to opt out of data-gathering entirely.

And before you get going, I know, I know, it’s buggy. The search function isn’t working well if at all, and during peak traffic it can have really long loading times. I accept that as a given for a new social network to which, yes, many Facebook users are genuinely fleeing. I’m not sure I love the design, and you can’t embed videos.

But saying “No one’s going to use it, it won’t catch on” is already demonstrably incorrect. I doubt tremendously that it will live up to the power of Facebook, but why would we need another Facebook when we already have Facebook? Gizmodo’s conclusion — that it’ll probably end up being a niche network for artists and people who are concerned about privacy – seems the closest to “right” to me.

I’ve been wanting to leave Facebook for a long time. Twitter has obvious limits — 140 characters is only enough for a one-liner; I can’t tell you how much I hate breaking some of my longer ideas up over 6+ tweets. And honestly, it moves too fast for me to enjoy the user experience, because somewhere deep down inside I’m 80 years old and I just want to spend five minutes on a site without having 127 tweets pile up at the top of the page. Ello’s experience mimics what I like about Facebook – the news feed, prior to the algorithm that places old posts at the top simply because they’ve been commented upon, anyway.

But why leave Facebook? Well:

  1. I’m an ally to trans* people, and I don’t want to support a company that has Facebook’s reach and influence that discriminates against them. The legal-name policy is an absolute affront to the drag and trans community, who deserve the protection of their chosen names. That Mark Zuckerberg calls having a chosen name a “lack of integrity” is appalling to me. Facebook is too powerful to be consciously setting that kind of policy.
  2. Nor do I want them to be able to treat me as a commodity. The speculation about why they’re setting that policy, though, has surrounded their ability to make money advertising — it’s notable that it’s a great way to get your username to sync up with the name on your credit card. Facebook’s revenue comes from advertisements, and they track your user data in order to provide better-targeted ads that you’ll be more likely to click. The problem is that so many of us use the network as a way to manage our personal lives, and the details of our personal lives aren’t supposed to be unwitting market research for a corporation’s benefit (“unwitting” because most of Facebook’s 1.35 billion users haven’t actually read its policies).
  3. Facebook is hostile to its users. Nick Briz goes through the ways that, in general, Facebook doesn’t care about their users much more eloquently than I could, but just to give an example that I’m sure engaged Facebook users will be familiar with: Whenever Facebook changes its policies, it does so by issuing a page that you click “agree” to without reading it because it will take you (literally) seven, eight, nine, ten times as long to read it as it will take you to read this article and you may not even understand what you’re reading. They never provide the ability to opt out of changes up front, however — only after there’s been backlash. Take, for example, the fact that in June of this year, Facebook’s privacy policy changed so that it could access all of your browser history in order to provide you with targeted ads. There was no opt-out through Facebook itself, only through the Digital Advertising Alliance.
  4. On a smaller social network, I won’t be as likely to unintentionally spend hours and hours scrolling through. There’s a theory that Facebook becomes an Internet k-hole or addictive because it increases your levels of dopamine by serving up small, easily-digestible pieces of information, and the more you use it, the more you become addicted to that dopamine. Not everyone buys into that, but I’m sure you’ve had the experience of listlessly scrolling through Facebook only to look at the clock and realize that you’ve wasted an hour — I get into that mess almost every morning when I just want to check the weather, obliviously open a tab and immediately type “Facebook,” and wind up wasting fifteen minutes. I want my time back. There won’t be as many people or as much to see on Ello, and it’s not as easy to use, which is a complaint for some people but a blessing for me.
  5. At this point in my life, I pretty much know who my real-life friends are, and I would rather be catching up with them face-to-face. The majority of people I interact with on Facebook are a train ride or, at worst, a drive with a ZipCar away — or, I interact with them on Twitter and Instagram, as well. When I was younger and had more turnover in my social life, it was easier to have sort of surface-level interactions with people on Facebook than to commit to hanging out with them in person (I didn’t know if I really wanted to see most people in person). Now, I know who my friends are, how to reach them off of Facebook, and when, generally, they’re available. I like their company a lot, and I’d rather invest my extra hour-or-so a day into seeing them.

I’ve been using Facebook to raise money for my marathon fundraising page (only $80 left to raise — if you have a few bucks for mental health care for low income patients, please hop on over), to share my runs from MapMyRun so I can demonstrate that yes, really, I’m going through with it. Once the marathon is over, I won’t have a compelling reason to be there anymore. I’m excited to strip this out of my life for good. And if Ello ends up being a train wreck, oh well — there’s still the whole rest of the Internet.

[Daily Dot]
[Psychology Today]