‘Ello there!

We are all aware of Ello, yes?

Slowly my Twitter list has been making its way to the new social media outlet. Having opened an account last night, I’ve spent the better part of the morning poking through the accounts of friends, amusedly observing their interests and acquaintances. It’s nice to see Ello reinforce my belief that I’ve surrounded myself with a number of smart and sweet people.

But what of the site that contains said people? Compared to its competitors (Facebook and Google Plus), Ello appears unfinished. I’d like to see features such as verification, customization, and a stringent policy regarding harassment added. In fact, the lack of customization—the ability to alter my profile page to match my main website—has kept me from utilizing Facebook and Google Plus, and has soured me considerably on Twitter. If I can’t have my pink and purple? Well, I just don’t want to be there.

However, I’ve given Ello considerably more leeway simply because it contains the people I like. (This is also why I continue to cling to Twitter.) Ello is Facebook or Google Plus sans the conservative bent and microaggressions that are often found on the two more mainstream social media sites. Ello is new and experimental—which means there is little obligation to interact with every distant relative and former coworker or classmate. Communication is limited to those with whom one has something in common. Connections are fostered through respect and interest rather than rote recognition.

I am extremely cautious on Twitter (to be fair, I don’t trust many), limiting my interactions to those with an interest in talking to me (rather than the motive of wishing to use me as a resource). My Twitter list is miniscule, and guided by the answer to one simple question: would I invite this person to a dinner party in my home?

Yet Ello is clearly reminiscent of Facebook rather than Twitter, and allows for less personal connections. It is the public soirée to Twitter’s private discussions over cocktails. I’ve wrestled with the decision as to whether or not to interact with new people on Ello and have yet to make a commitment regarding how I will use the site. However, I am leaning towards being more open—sociable. After all, is that not what social media is for?

The meddling of middling mediums.

Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and more—how did we gain so many accounts, so many methods to express ourselves, and yet lose our individuality? Eons away from the unique backgrounds and browsing tunes found in the heyday of MySpace and LiveJournal, almost every social media site has become a blend of muted blues. The only personalization to be found is in the blitzkrieg of advertisements bombarding users.

The homogenization is strange. Sites such as Facebook (and the newly revamped Twitter) have stripped the user of the chance to utilize design in building a brand across social media outlets. Instead, the sites dictate the uniform layout, color, and font to be used. I would accuse the instrument of wishing to outshine its wielder, but given the bland similarities between sites one certainly can’t argue that social media outlets are attempting to establish themselves via design.

Tumblr and WordPress, to the grateful relief of small businesses everywhere, are the odd men out. Both organizations have blithely handed users the keys to their respective castles, allowing the user to dictate not only the content published, but the container in which said content arrives.

Why is this important? Visual repetition is needed to build a brand and embed oneself within the collective consciousness. We immediately know what golden arches signify; we have connected hot pink and cursive font to a particular product. Most small companies do not have the power to build franchises across the nation or dominate aisles in retail stores. For these organizations the repetition of linking a particular design and product must occur digitally. When sites such as Twitter deny companies the ability to do this by limiting design features they prevent companies from achieving their full marketing potential.

Without a wholly unique design, one’s content or product must assume the responsibility of distinctiveness. And in these times? Distinctiveness is in extremely short supply.

This or that?

After stuffing myself digitally, sampling each new email client or social media service to boldly make itself available, I am now attempting to put myself on a digital diet. What bests represents me? What best fits in with my online life?

Outlook vs. Gmail: Oh, this is a tough one. Gmail appeals to me. The ease of use is immense. It’s tucked right into my favorite search engine! However, I’m leaning more towards Outlook. The clean interface, the ability to access Twitter and LinkedIn updates, and the connection to the Microsoft brand are all alluring. Yes, with all the adoration that is heaped on Apple, I still remain a Microsoft chick. The reduced prices on software offered to students helped me cross the digital divide when I struggled financially. It cemented the idea of Microsoft as a brand “of the people” in my head. Heck, I still can’t afford the MacBook Air or iPhone that is seemingly standard for Apple enthusiasts. But I dream about the Surface, so no matter!

An interesting aside: I do not like the fact that logging into Gmail logs me into Youtube—and YouTube then tracks the videos I watch. I have no need for a viewing history. If I want to remember a clip, I’ll bookmark it. I am wary about why this information is being gathered and who it is being shared with.

Google Plus vs. Facebook: No matter which option is chosen, the result is terrible. The Plus interface is clunky and confusing. However, should one manage to get past initial set-up issues, the content found is generally superior to that found on Facebook and is geared more towards my specific interests. Facebook is NBC; Google Plus is Syfy. And just as everyone tunes into NBC, so is Facebook used by the masses. To connect with family members, coworkers, clients, and friends the network is required. However, the lack of control is infuriating! There remains no customization for profile pages, users can upload terrible photos of an individual and tag them for all to see, and one is subject to endless twinkling religious GIFs or bawdy jokes from relatives—all within view of one’s boss or potential date. I remain undecided. I suppose I’ll maintain an account with both and revisit the matter in a month.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn has no competition; I can think of no other organization that compares! Yes, there are other wonderful sites that help me gather news regarding the publishing industry, but LinkedIn allows me to learn from my peers. I check the site frequently. It’s great.

Tumblr vs. Pinterest: I’m surprised that Pinterest is so admired by women given what I find to be a complete lack of socialization. It’s no more than an organized bulletin board or Amazon wish list. I’m online to interact with others. And Pinterest does not provide me with that opportunity in the same manner as Tumblr. Though chaotic in regards to organization, the Tumblr design is much more open to online conversations, which I adore. And I can customize Tumblr in order to bring it in line with my own design sensibilities.

Tumblr is like flipping through television channels while at a boisterous party—a flood of images and comments at once. Pinterest is akin to flipping though a stack of magazines lent to you by friends. You see what interests them and can mark those pages, but there is little to no conversation taking place. Pinterest is media without the social. I’ll keep my Pinterest account in case changes are made over time, but Tumblr is where I will remain active. The popularity of Pinterest shows how we as a culture are dominated by the desire to consume and how we define ourselves by what we are able to obtain.

Twitter: There are those who use Twitter to promote themselves, but I use Twitter as a glorified chat room and wouldn’t have it any other way. I tried to alter the way I use Twitter by following companies and celebrities, but that grew tiresome quickly. Again, I want current topics and conversation, not ads. And unlike many, my Twitter account is set to private. I’d been followed by a great deal of people who chose not to interact with me at all; the voyeuristic aspect of it was off-putting. With a private account, I no longer feel as if I’m giving a speech or being used as a marketing tool with each tweet. Simply put, Twitter is the social networking service I use the most because the opportunity to socialize is the highest.

Nucleus vs. WordPress: Nucleus wins. Given that I have multiple blogs, there’s simply no other option! However, I’m fond of the fact that WordPress blogs can be linked to Klout. Impressive. Though my journal isn’t updated as frequently as my Tumblr or Twitter account, I still plan to use it to post in-depth comments on random topics—like this one, I suppose!