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Ello: The answer to the social media blues or just another password to remember?

Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary back in February, which means many of us early adopters have spent over a decade with the now-ubiquitous social network. There have been plenty of growing pains along the way of course; in recent years, the loudest complaints from users have been concerns over privacy and the saturation of advertising.

Enter Ello, a new site hyping itself as the simple, beautiful and ad-free alternative to the world’s largest social networking platform. Currently still in its invite-only stage, more than 35,000 people an hour are requesting to join the beta-phase bandwagon. Ello’s uncluttered Tumblr-esque design features plenty of whitespace and is noticeably free of promoted posts and sponsored content.

The site doesn’t have an “about” page; it has a rather dramatic anti-establishment manifesto intended to lure users away from Facebook by pointing out FBs pitfalls. “Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data,” it reads. “You are the product that’s being bought and sold.”

But isn’t that always true, to a certain extent?

We rent out our eyeballs to advertisers every time we open a magazine, turn on the television or go to the movies. There’s no such thing as a free lunch; someone is always going to try and sell you something, whether it’s a product, a service, or an ideology.

Anyone who spends hours a day on a free website should forfeit any naive notions about privacy. It’s your choice if you want to give up personal data in exchange for access to an open platform that allows you to connect with friends and family across the world, share and store images and send out party invitations with ease.

My own Facebook newsfeed is full of promotional content hawking wedding rings and weight-loss supplements. You can tell what sort of top-secret personal information advertisers are gleaning from my account: oh, a woman in her 20s — she must be desperate to be married and thin!

I’m more inclined to laugh and roll my eyes than feel like my privacy has been violated. Like any good millennial Internet user, I’ve simply trained myself to gloss over the ads and recognize promoted content over the legitimate updates.

Ello promises that it will never collect or sell your data to third-party advertisers. The site plans to generate revenue through other methods such as charging users a fee to personalize their profile page or download value-added features. I guess time will tell if this strategy actually pays off. I suspect most of us won’t be willing to pay for services we’re used to getting for free.

Despite its radical proclamations of transparency and social revolution, Ello just seems like another online destination to add to our growing list of passwords to remember and profile photos to stress over.

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