Social media has become a pain of modern times and I for one am happy no longer choosing to partake. Since I quit my Facebook and Twitter habit, my life has improved. Not by much, but enough to not wanting to go back any time soon. However, with lockdowns and COVID19 induced quarantines still an on-going thing, I do long for more connections. So what are the alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, etc for those who do not want to get trapped in a never ending feed of doom?
The first question I am asking myself is:
Do I really need social media in my life?
Yes, I guess I miss it in a way because it connects me to my peers and easily keeps me up to date with what everyone is up to.
But the sting in the tail is too much to tempt me back to Facebook, etc because now that I have been ‘clean’ of social media use for nearly a year, it’d be madness to start again.
Professionally, I do sometimes dip my toes and recently volunteered myself into a situation where social media is very much back on my daily agenda.
How do we connect with people more safely?
Safety being defined as protecting users from privacy invasive practices by the medium of choice and abuse by others. The latter seems to be rampant still despite efforts by the social media platforms to try curbing it. When people suffer constant abuse online, there’s no surprise the question of whether they need social media and/or what alternatives exist is asked more often.
Alternatives, such as Mastodon, Diaspora, etc are lovely and tick a lot of boxes but they are nearly inaccessible to the non-technical user nor something that’s convenient or easy to use. With both route A being Facebook, Twitter, etc and route B something juxtaposed to it blocked, is it time to go back to a simpler ‘social media network’?
Whatsapp may not be a great alternative, since it’s owned by Facebook, but there are ways to use it safely. You can disconnect yourself from Facebook and use simple browser extensions like Privacy Badger and Decentral Eyes for Chrome/Edge and Firefox for example. Just invite your friends and you have your very own little social media network. In fact, a lot of my friends have done this for a while now and a lot of folks – especially the younger generation – moved to private networks over public timelines.
Signal messenger or even Google Hangouts are more alternatives but ease of access can still be an issue sometimes. Usability and features are another point to consider and then there’s the fact that everyone in your circle (no pun intended) has different preferences.
I am on Hangouts, Signal, iMessage, Whatsapp and Discord – and that’s just messaging platforms. Franz is a helpful tool to make this easier to manage on the desktop but there’s a no alternative for mobile that I found useful yet.
The easiest, low impact and almost frictionless way to get a social medium for your friends and work up and running is a simple online forum software. Like Discourse or Vanilla perhaps – installable quickly or even available as a turnkey service from practically anywhere online for little cost. If you have a home server, you can set it up on there also and enjoy its benefits for free.
That means becoming a forum admin though and managing your little community. Plus not everybody likes the idea of a separate place to go to when they may already have 5 others to frequent. So give them a good reason to sign up and engage.
If you are looking for something even easier and ready made, check out Orbit. It’s a new online platform to connect professional communities but can also be used for private, non-commercial purposes.
In summary, there’s no easy answer.
Suggest a new home for the people that matter in your life to connect via and see what the majority are most comfortable with. Be prepared to be braver and lead or perhaps find somebody in your group that is happy to do it. You’ll need to create a little momentum or otherwise the drag back to Facebook, etc will be too great.
Why stop with one?
Let me know what your alternatives to social media are and how you are keeping connected 🙂