Facebook: Kids, pets, vacations, and holidays. That about sums it up for me. The occasional meme also slips through with a few targeted ads. I’m not a big Facebook user, but it’s good to have a community of friends and family all within easy reach.
However, there are negative aspects to what amounts to the biggest organized community on earth. It is, for example, the first place stalkers visit to check up on the behavior of an ex. It is also implicated in 20% of divorces. And one study found that “the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being”. Why? Well, one reason seems to be the fear that others are having good times while you are living a mundane existence. Facebook tends to high-grade the lives of others. There is also the depression attendant on being left out. If you see posts of friends going out and having fun together, you may wonder why they didn’t take the time to ask you. The researchers found that the more a person uses Facebook, the more likely it is to affect them negatively.
Then there’s the whole issue of privacy. Nothing in the Cambridge Analytics so-called scandal surprised anyone in the cybersecurity community. However, it seemed to hit a nerve with the general public, who had no idea that Facebook was monetizing their personal data and online behavior. Did they think that Facebook was just offering their site as a community service? In any event, this and other security issues have caused some to wonder if there isn’t a better way to interact with an online social community.
Upfront, I must admit that there is nothing that can really measure up to Facebook. Nearly everyone you know is already on Facebook as a friend or a rejected friend. They are, thus, easily accessible – all together in one convenient place. Leaving Facebook means re-establishing a network of friends and associates on a lesser known site, and there is no guarantee that current friends will be willing to join you there. Sure, you could focus on Instagram (part of Facebook), Twitter, Snapchat, or WhatsApp, but they have limitations. In short, you simply have to decide what qualities you are looking for in an alternative site and what you want in online social relationships. Are you interested in serious conversations? Are you more interested in photographs? Maybe privacy is your main concern. So with these possible standards in mind, here are some sites which social media experts have put forth as alternatives to Facebook. They are not ranked.
The homepage of the Ello site basically says it all.
If you’re a creative person or just like to be around creative people, this could be the site for you. Actually, even if you don’t become a member of the site, it’s a fun place just to look around to see the abundant creativity that resides there. Here’s an example of some work by Jake Allen.
And here’s another work from Crea Studio.
The site can be slow to load due to all the graphics and takes some time to navigate. In some ways, it is more like the artist version of LinkedIn, as it can expose your creativity to potential customers and collaborators.
Mastodon works like a Facebook-Twitter-Reddit hybrid. It is decentralized, meaning there is no one repository for personal information and no monetizing of any personal information. There are no ads. The Mastodon network is broken into nodes with each node representing a community. Communities form around topics. These are wide-ranging, from cybersecurity, to game development, to witchcraft. Choose the community you’d like to be a part of and you get 500 characters to express yourself in each post. Every community has its own rules and can control the behavior on their site as they see fit. You will have to register to participate, but it’s all free.
Diaspora* (the asterisk is part of the official name) is about as close to Facebook as you can get but with the restraints and advertising angle removed. It is like Mastodon but without a character limit. It also does not limit free speech, no matter how obnoxious that speech is.
It’s somewhat confusing in that you must first choose a “pod” which is, basically, a website hosted by Diaspora. For this, you may want to use the ‘pod wizard’, which will give you the choice of country (server) and the language you want to communicate in. You will then choose the pod you want to join and create an account.
Although diaspora might work for some people, I did not find using it especially intuitive. I was confused as to where to go and what to do. There are numerous tutorials to help you get started, but this seems to underline the fact that many people are having a hard time interacting with this site, however, it may be good for some.
Vero closely mimics Facebook without the data mining that Facebook does. There are limitations that will probably keep it from making significant inroads into the Facebook realm, however. First of all, it is only available for smartphones, so using it on a desktop/laptop is not an option for the moment, though the company is busily working on making it available for these platforms. Second, it is subscription based, which means you’ll have to pay a fee to use it. But wait! If you sign up now, you can use it for free.
With some tweaking, this could become a real alternative to Facebook. How will they make money with free subscriptions? It appears they may be selling some access to your personal information or habits after all. It may not be as obvious as it is with Facebook, but it is there. Here is code marketers can use that incorporates Vero user data.
Vero also makes money any time a user buys something. They get a certain percentage of the sale from the seller. That said, it has an interface that will be intuitive for most Facebook users.
The problem with all of these Facebook alternative is the lack of participants. You will not find all of your friends and family hanging out on them. On the other hand, you will have a chance to make new friends on all of them, some of whom will be more aligned to your own interests than your family. However, if you really want to replace Facebook, you’d have to invite all of your Facebook contacts to the new platform. Good luck with that. My advice would be to keep Facebook for mundane posts about kids, pets, vacations, and holidays, but lock down all the privacy features. You could also use it only to receive posts from others. At the same time, you can slowly branch into some of these other sites. When you feel ready, invite select contacts to these sites for more creative, private, or serious posts. In the end, you may find that Facebook better suits your needs, or you may find you can live completely without it. In any event, you have nothing to lose.