10/06/2014 12:53 EDT | Updated 12/06/2014 05:59 EST

Sorry Ello, My Heart Belongs to Facebook


I joined it, I tried it, and I just don't get what all the fuss is about.

Here's how it started: I was noodling around on Facebook early last week, when something unusual jumped off the page at me. It was an update on my newsfeed by my oldest son, Adam, referencing something called "Ello." Being the curious sort, I jumped immediately to action, googling Ello and then logging on to the site itself to get the scoop.

I'll admit, I was naive about the (relatively) new social networking site. I didn't realize that Ello is currently invitation only, and when I did (you get the exclusivity message on the first hit), I texted Adam to invite me. He didn't respond right away, so I got insistent. "Invite me to Ello right now, you ungrateful boy!" I texted him. I simply couldn't wait.

Within minutes I got my invitation, and proceeded to the Ello experience. I created a profile; uploading a photo of myself and describing briefly and self-consciously who I am. It took me a few minutes to come up with my Ello name, but in a stroke of creative brilliance, I baptized myself "Shanello."

That was the easy part. Since becoming Ello-worthy, I've spent some time trying to figure out what I can do there. And my conclusion is: not much.

For those of you who miraculously haven't heard about the site, here's how its founders explain it: "Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers." Fans have been calling it the "anti-Facebook" social networking site, because Ello states on its front page that it does not sell ads, nor will it ever. It also states that it will never sell your personal information or data to any third party. In fact, you have to agree to their manifesto before they will accept you as a user.

That's pretty compelling stuff to many Facebook haters who have exited the nefarious network; rebels who are fed up with the ads they see on their pages, miraculously appearing out of nowhere and eerily reflective of past Facebook activity, or users who feel Facebook is a bully (the gay community who exited in droves a couple weeks back because of the "real name" policy). I guess I'm just not one of them.

I like Facebook. I like that it's free, and that I can stay in touch with people in my life of my choosing. I like seeing photos of my kids and their friends and their funny looking babies. I like connecting with now graying old high school mates, young people I've worked with and enjoyed, and fast friends I've made in other cities. I like looking at my friends' travel pictures, and congratulating them on their milestones, and having them congratulate me. I even like the occasional debate that breaks out when one of us says something really stupid. I'm comfortable in the Facebook space.

Not so Ello. For all the claims of "simplicity," I still don't really understand what I can do there. I have one friend (Adam, my son), and I can't find anyone else I know. I'm not all that interested in following strangers, no matter how artsy or aloof they are, and clearly no one is interested in following me, despite the fact that I've been on the site now for almost two weeks and I have what I consider to be the cleverest handle ever (Shannello).

I feel like the new girl in town, with no friends, no idea how to get around, braces on my teeth and the wrong clothes. Given the choice, I'm heading back to the comfort of Facebook, a place I know and that knows me (probably more than I'd like to think).

Now, if you're one of the 50,000 people per hour clamoring for an invitation to join Ello, I can help you out. Each member has the privilege of inviting five friends to join. I'm so confused by my experience that I don't want to foist Ello on anyone else. If you're determined to be cool, send me your info and I'll invite you.

Just don't expect me to be hanging around to show you the ropes. I'll be on Facebook with all the other unhip people waiting guilelessly for Mark Zuckerberg to pimp me out to the next hungry advertiser.


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