Snapchat represents the movement from text to image/video based communication/storytelling. I’m already becoming an old fogie (as part of the first cohort of millennials) using mostly text, Facebook, and still making phone calls to tell the story my daily life (after all, relationships thrive in the mundanes of daily tedium).
Ello is a bright and clean new social network that promises, in its manifesto, to stay free of ads, never sell your data, and not make anyone use real names. People are paying attention to Ello because other people are paying attention to Ello. It is invitation only. New members were joining at the rate of 4,000 sign-ups per hour yesterday; the site is doubling in size every 3 or 4 days. Ello just notified me that I can’t send out invites right now because “Ello has gone viral.”
I’m very cynical about people’s attitudes and expectations toward Ello. Facebook is filled with ads and data collection (as well as any site you visit pretty much) because it’s owned by shareholders (not advertisers) - and that’s a whole other conversation about how money works. Monetization through data-driven ads is just a symptom of that.
The resources needed to run something with the scale and features of Facebook, for those of us with a deeper understanding of internet business or computer science, are absolutely astronomical. I agree with privacy concerns, LGBTIQ social justice issues around real names on Facebook, and crossing the line with intrusive ads, but I also have no sympathy for wishful thinking on how the internet should work without the willingness to understand the knowledge, resources, and costs needed to have everything we have.
The truth of the matter that is we haven’t built the best internet in America (slow, insecure, and full of questionable profit models), for larger structural reasons such as the public not willing to pay for services as a macro-problem. America’s digital divide and internet connection speeds and quality even for the wealthy are a disgrace compared to other parts of the world.
I would nerd out and rant about this forever, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for pollyannas who believe in good copywriting ranty manifestos that promise an unrealistic world. That’s part of the problem.
"You are not a product."
Let’s get more critical than that. That ranty manifesto is just intentionally good marketing until proven sustainable, as Ello is a vc-backed venture.
The problems with Facebook - the profiteering, anxieties about political/controversial expression, privacy, etc. are parts of larger issues that are not endemic to Facebook or the internet world in general.
So is Urban Outfitters run by a bunch of jerks? Perhaps, but—and this is an important but—they’re jerks with business sense. Urban Outfitters Inc, the company that owns Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and Bhldn brands, recently announced record quarterly sales of $811 million. If courting controversy was bad for the bottom line, Urban wouldn’t be doing it. That begs the question: Is any publicity good publicity, as the saying goes, or will the company eventually suffer if it goes too far over the line?
Another factor that may reward an offend-first strategy is that millennials, Urban Outfitter’s core demographic, are especially difficult to reach because they’re constantly bombarded with stimulation and advertising. According Yarrow, it may take something truly shocking to break through all of the noise. A bloodstained sweater referencing an event most young people only vaguely know about might be what it takes to bring the Urban Outfitters brand to the forefront.
Yarrow doesn’t think the company will suffer for its Kent State gaffe. “If they apologize in any way, and a half-hearted apology is their typical pattern, then they’re partially forgiven,” she explained.
We’re the ones, as potential customers, who answer that question. Speaking as someone with hipster tendencies and the money to buy stuff at Urban Outfitters, they’re not getting any of my hard-earned cash. Especially given the plethora of violence in the news with law enforcement killing citizens, this is totally and utterly distasteful and tone-deaf to history and now.
Urban Outfitters caused a huge controversy when it began selling a Kent State University sweatshirt with fake blood stains. Sadly, this is not the first mistake Urban Outfitters has made, in fact here’s a list of 7 Most Insensitive Choices By Urban Outfitters.
It’s more subtle than that. The first thing you have to do as an Asian girl is dispel everyone’s preconceptions about you. Slyly reassure those around you that you’re not quiet, shy, unassertive, ditzy, passive-aggressive, easily influenced, sweet, apolitical, innocent, and/or bland. Never mind that some of those things directly contradict each other. Then you have to deal with everyone’s shock that you’re so “different,” so “unexpected,” so “sassy.” Never mind that this is what racism is now. Never mind that you can never directly mention it, because it’s not like anyone holds any ill will against you. But why do I just have to sit here and take it? There aren’t really any answers. The only thing you can really do is turn this bullshit ‘shock factor’ into a way to wield some degree of power. But… how? Whose responsibility is it to figure this out, anyway? Why do I have to worry about five things at once? Answer: life is unfair.
But not as unfair as it could be. How lucky am I to be in this position? Well-educated, aware of what’s going on around me, more-or-less gainfully employed. For the first time, the path isn’t drawn for me. Not just because I don’t know what’s to come down the line, professionally. But because every action I take from now on is instilled with a sense of (likely overblown, but hey) personal responsibility. Maybe I have the ability to change some things. Small things. Still. Small things can ripple. It’s time to start collecting these experiences and think, REALLY think, about them critically. And mold them into something concrete, something with the wisdom of experience, something that produces a positive impact. Even if no one recognizes it. Especially if no one can recognize it. Because it is only when we don’t have to point out how much better things have become that we reach true progress.