Does anyone feel the way I do about social media? It seems there is something fundamentally and obviously wrong with all of today's social media sites. Ello, the anti-advertising, stripped-down new "alternative to Facebook", is unfortunately no exception. I will go through the 3 fundamental problems in great detail. I will then describe an entirely new, different, and better type of social media site.
I should have fallen in love with Ello. I really wanted to. I despise all forms of advertising, so Ello's charter as a Public Benefit Corporation inspired me to the extent that I am founding my venture with a similar anti-advertising charter. But as I was saying, I don't love Ello because it doesn't solve the 3 fundamental problems of today's social media sites.
Ello, Facebook, Tumblr, Myspace, and all of the rest of the social media sites are fundamentally flawed. They no longer serve any useful function, and are obsolete, for the following specific reasons:
Fundamental Problem #1: Social media contributes to information overload by providing a massive amount of irrelevant information. This makes us feel physically ill.
When I logged-on to Ello, I had to start with nothing and nobody. I immediately realized the enormous amount of work ahead of me. Obviously I would need to make some friends, otherwise nobody would care about what I have to say. So then I tried really hard to force myself to care about what other people were posting. I browsed around and did some searches. The truth is, a lot of the content I saw was pretty good. These are clearly smart, talented people who are embracing their passions. The problem is, their passions aren't my passions and I don't really care about these random strangers enough to pay them proper attention. It occurred to me that these same, random strangers weren't likely to care about my posts either (regardless of how brilliant and worthwhile I believe my thoughts to be!).
Now that the Web 2.0 novelty is ancient history, I no longer have the time or energy to care about meeting someone who I will never know in real life, who I will never work with, and with whom I will never create anything. What I want isn't the same thing as what those people want. My life has no connection to theirs and we are essentially not compatible. How is it going to help either of us to know each other? Why would I want to see the paintings of a random Italian artist? Why would I want to listen to the music of an unknown band who's music is in a genre I don't like? Why would I want to read someone's thoughts on a new gadget, when I simply don't care about new gadgets at this very moment? After a short time on Ello, I felt as though I didn't belong and, worse yet, I started to get physically sickened from the endless stream of irrelevant content. It wasn't as bad as advertising, but I felt the same way I do on Facebook.
So what instincts or needs drove me to Ello to begin with? Here's what I do care about: 1) raising capital for my start-up, 2) finding an appreciative audience for my music, and 3) finding an audience for my blog. Those are the things that give my life meaning and purpose, outside of my family and real-world friends. I know that I need to meet new people, which should presumably be the point of social networking websites, right?
Unfortunately, Ello doesn't help me. Instead, in order to look "popular", I'm supposed to pretend to care about a lot of people who I don't feel anything for. Then they can, in turn, pretend to care about me. We can pretend that we both have an audience but, in truth, we don't have a real audience. Even if we did, we don't actually feel anything about each other or care. Using today's social media sites is like trying to scratch an itch and being left with an even greater itch. It is a cycle in which we are left tired, empty, and frustrated while we make no progress in our lives.
Fundamental Problem #2: There is no real mechanism to meet new people in order to form a solid, mutually-beneficial relationship.
Today's social media, including Ello, is really only useful if your intention is to stay in contact and keep up-to-date about happenings in the lives of your real-world friends. Outside of that, there is no systematic, usable mechanism to connect us to the people who we should know who we currently do not know.
Fundamental Problem #3: Social media leads to stagnation and inaction in our lives.
We all have a limited amount of time on this planet and energy in our days. How shall we use it? Here are some pretty good ideas:
- Sharing beautiful moments with real people
- Accomplishing our goals and dreams
- Working toward something, creating something, solving a problem, or earning money so that we can, in turn, do something that excites us
- Learning something that excites us
- Experiencing something that excites us
- Taking care of loved ones and maintaining our closest relationships
- Feeling pleasure and experiencing real beauty that we can touch and feel
- Experiencing human emotions with others, face-to-face
- Relaxing in a way that brings us closer to the present moment and improves our overall well-being and sense of peace
We aren't doing any of these things on social media websites. Instead, we channel our time and energy into a black hole that gives us little in return. Sure, we may stay more updated on what's going on in our friend's lives, but even that is done in a way that is disconnected from the true value of those relationships.
Above: random cats, bracelets, art, and irrelevant stuff that gives me a headache on Ello
So, after a short time on Ello, I signed off (far more exhausted than I was when I signed on after having accomplished nothing at all). I started thinking about the whole concept of social networking. What kinds of people do I actually need to meet to do the things I actually want to do?
Interest 1: I want to raise funding for my start-up so we can launch the People Economy.
Who do I need to meet? angel investors, wealthy individuals who have an interest in the social good, people who are involved in the venture capital community.
I need a social networking site that connects me only to those people while skipping right past the brilliant Italian artists, other musicians, as well as the other entrepreneurs. Likewise, those investors need to meet me because this idea is brilliant, we will change the world, and they will make a fortune. They want to meet me but, today, they have no way of finding me. Instead, we all have to resort to a lot of email spam, social media games, blogging tricks, and other gimmicks if we hope to meet the right people. The whole system is inefficient and we can do better.
Interest 2: I want to reach an audience for my band's music.
Who do I need to meet: music bloggers, album reviewers, music podcast producers, concert bookers, etc.
Likewise, these people need a simple, elegant way to skim through all of the new albums coming out in a particular genre and region, for example. We need a way to connect to each other while avoiding the headaches.
Interest 3: All of that other stuff I wrote about doing stuff that improves our lives and excites us.
Who I need to meet: people who want the same things and are willing to meet new people and do something about it.
What we need is a way to connect two people based on their compatible wants -- a way to meet the right people! That connection should then be tied directly to an action. In just seconds, we should be able to get in touch with all of the people we need to meet to move our real lives forward and to make our lives better. We should be willing to work with these people, meet these people, and establish mutually-beneficial real-world relationships. We need to network with people only when doing so excites us...only when doing so is compatible with what we actually want!
The good news is that there actually is a way to meet new people, work together, meet, and carry on with our lives in just the way I'm describing. Unfortunately, Ello isn't it.