Alternatives to Antisocial Media

Oct 31, 2022 | Op-Ed, Technology

You could just smash all electronic devices and toss ’em in the nearest Port-a-Potty. That might be a little over-the-top, though, if you’re just disgruntled and seeking alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other commercial, profit-driven, antisocial social media platforms. I have some suggestions that don’t involve flouncing off in a huff – at least not until you have alternatives in place.

Stop Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket

Some of the excuses I hear for not leaving the predominant social media platforms are:

  • It’s how I keep up with what my [friends | kids | grandkids] are up to;
  • I don’t get out much – it’s how I stay connected with other people;
  • I have 10+ years of photos there;
  • It’s how I get most of my news;
  • I depend on it for my [work | my business | book promotion | professional connections].

It Makes Me Feel Dirty, But All My Friends Are There!

I don’t recommend going cold turkey on the bluebird or those other sites we love to hate. We all have our “ethical line in the sand,” which more and more people are refusing to cross for big social lately. But I do recommend moving – and bringing the people who matter with you – over time, if at all possible. If the connections are real, they’ll come. Or you’ll find other ways to keep in touch, be it phone calls, texts, emails, or a different site. The bottom line on social media? You’re not the customer, you’re the product. Your information has been carelessly handled, beginning with you.

I have fully deleted my MeWe and Tribel accounts. MeWe does not offer any way to download your data. Tribel… well. There are other reasons I can’t recommend them (along with many mobile-app-based platforms like Minds):

So, about that last link… The last time I was livid and ready to #deletefacebook, this popped up. Great timing! I did not engage my critical thinking skills and do any further research – I just joined to see what it was all about. I stayed on MeWe and Tribel just long enough to realize that disillusioned émigrés from other social media platforms don’t always make the best social media communities – no matter where they go. They’re surly, biased, and feeling mean. And let’s face it: trolls and propagandists of all stripes need an audience, too. You don’t have to leave out the welcome mat and throw the door wide for them.

In hindsight, we also don’t always make the wisest decisions about which companies or platforms to support. We go at it with a herd mentality. “All of my like-minded friends are there…” instead of challenging ourselves to listen to a variety of views.

Ask the insurrectionists who provided such a mountain of evidence against themselves via Parler. Along with copies of their government-issued photo IDs. Bless their hearts.

I didn’t mention TikTok, Snap, YouTube, and many more. But this is also interesting reading as you think about where to share your thoughts, photos, and opinions:

Back to the Backups

This is for the folks who cry, “But all my kids’ and grandkids’ photos are on Facebook!” I’m not going to say, “For God’s sake, why?” But here’s how you get them onto your own hard drive: Before deactivating or deleting any of your social media accounts, download a copy of your data, if the option exists. Here are a few shortcuts; these are usually located somewhere in your Account Settings under Security and Privacy Settings:

Take a look through your archive, after downloading and unzipping the file. It may be eye-opening, as it usually includes your “likes” and your interests used in targeting you with advertising or in determining what posts you see in your feed by the algorithms. You may be able to delete or alter your interests – they may, in fact, consist of a whole list of things you’ve never heard of. There were names I had to Google, on mine. Never heard of them! I left the list alone, on Twitter. My interests are wide-ranging, but that list is ridiculous. If anyone uses it for “targeting,” it’s like trying to nail down my favorite word by throwing a dictionary at the wall to see what sticks.

Make sure those precious photos are there, in a folder on your own PC. Now it’s probably safe to delete your social media account, if you want to.

News – Where Will I Get My News!?

You may remember “feed readers”? I recommend Feedspot (yes, it’s still there!) or Flipboard. Set up your own newsreader with your favorite RSS feeds. Most news sites have one! (Even this site has one. When you “subscribe” to my blog, you get updates from my “feed.”) If you don’t know a lot about RSS, don’t worry. You don’t have to understand RSS to get this to work.

Free RSS Readers – How to Choose the Right One For You – RSSMasher Technology

To discover the RSS feed address from any site that offers one (or more), add this plug-in to your browser (Chrome or Edge):

Get RSS Feed URL – Chrome Web Store (google.com)

On this site, you would see:

Here are a few sources to get you started. If they offer an RSS feed, you can add it to your feedreader.

Online Newswires and News Monitoring Service – EIN Presswire (einnews.com) – click here, then select specific countries or states, or regions within each large regional group (e.g., “United States” within North America).

You can make an RSS feed out of news on Google. Just type the following into your browser address bar:

https://news.google.com/rss/search?q= then type your search query after that. For example, if I wanted social media news items, I could use the RSS feed: https://news.google.com/rss/search?q=social+media (if you click that link, you’ll see that it’s not formatted nicely for human reading – that is why you want to use a feed reader).

Just add each RSS feed URL to your selected feed reader to build your own newspaper!

Security and Privacy Matter

If you care about security and privacy, corporate ethics, or community standards, you can use the following searches as a good starting point for further reading (Google is used here because it returns the most complete results; you can copy the search terms and, with only minor alterations in most cases, use them on any search engine):

I Don’t Like Moving, and Anyway, Where Would I Go?

Build your own platform. Web hosting isn’t terribly expensive; there are far more costly hobbies and places to run a business.

PeoplesHost Web HostingThat’s the web hosting company I use, and the only one I currently recommend. That’s an affiliate link, by the way – you can use it or not. If you don’t need much space, you could even get together with family or friends to build a site or multiple sites under one account.

Fellow creatives – authors, artists, photographers, musicians – PeoplesHost even modified their terms of service to narrow the rights they claim in our copyrighted work when I pointed out that the standard boilerplate was disconcertingly broad. That, and their always-responsive tech support have earned them my loyalty.

There are many choices out there, and I’m not the boss of you. But I do recommend paying for web hosting rather than going with a “free” Blogger or WordPress account, because paying for it makes you the client – not the product. A free Blogger or WordPress account can be a good place to start – it lets you “try before you buy” – you can learn how to use the platform but remember that you don’t control it. Paying for your own independent web hosting lets you choose whether to display ads or not, and lets you earn some revenue from them if you do.

I suggest avoiding the easy, cheap options – such as the EIG-owned web hosting companies – but that is because I dislike monopolies and have had bad experiences with several of these, personally. See

Bring back the “blogrolls.” If you want to be read, you have to get the word out that there is something to read. And it helps to read and comment on the things others create. What is social media if it’s not social? Just antisocial media, if you ask me.

If you want to bring people to the table, so to speak, you have to get the word out that there is something tasty and nutritious on offer. But does it have to be broadcast on big social media? Even if you have a decent number of followers, friends, or connections, the platforms’ algorithms largely determine who sees what, and when. A number of them will be bots, spammers, frauds, and trolls. If you aren’t reaching real people, there is no point in bumping up the numbers. They’re just numbers.

On this blog, I’ve added a plug-in that is part RSS newsreader, part dynamic blogroll. You can see it in action on the page Recommended Reading by Friends. Blogrolls ran out of fashion around the time the “make money in your sleep” bloggers started fearing the idea of “sharing the link juice.” They gave over their power to Google and other search engines. They have been chasing the magic SEO formula and scrambling to keep up with the search engines’ efforts to thwart them ever since. This only matters if you’re running your business on your blog, or your blog is your business. For most of us, trying to game the search rankings is a waste of time.

Social Media with a Sense of Community

Be more sociable: Be open and decentralized! Try one of these “decentralized” and “open source” social media platforms, known as the “fediverse.” To get started, visit Fediverse Observer. Choose one of the recommended pods (also known as nodes or instances) or look for one by software type (e.g., diaspora, mastodon, hubzilla, plume, etc.) or by location (choose one that’s closer to you for potentially faster processing, or one located in a country with privacy protections that you like). Each is run on a server by volunteers. These are not ad-supported networks. If one is not a good fit, you can move to a different one. But all of them are capable of sharing and talking with the others that run on the same software type. Most of them feel like a real community with international perspectives, respect, and kindness. Some are very general in focus, and some are geared towards specific interests like tech or art or society. There is very little rancor.

At first, you may miss some of the many features you’re used to on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms. But are all those bells and whistles really adding to your experience? Or do they merely serve as time-consuming distractions and get in the way of communicating? If you join diaspora, use the hashtag and search features to follow #newhere (to meet people) and #checkin (for a daily conversation on a topic – with lots of digression.

If you were ever on Google+, you can think of diaspora’s “aspects” as “circles.” These platforms are free, but donations can help keep them running smoothly. Consider supporting your favorites, if you enjoy them.

You can find me on these two:

UPDATE (11/01/2022) Counter.Social: Another that I just joined ;this morning (11/01/2022) is Counter.Social. It is run on the same software as Mastodon, so if you’ve tried and used Mastodon in the past, the UI will feel very familiar. It is not part of the “fediverse” now, though – and here’s why: The Short History of CounterSocial and Mastodon (documize.com) If you have “heard bad things about it” in the past, that explains why, and most importantly, why you should ignore the negative press now. Want to know who runs it? Read CounterSocial | Who Is Jester? And here’s a user’s guide to help you get started: userguide.pdf (counter.social)

Be patient – as with the “fediverse” sites listed, above, this is a small but growing operation that is struggling under the weight of a very fast influx of new users. You can find me here: Holly J on CounterSocial (CounterSocial)

What About Private Messaging Apps?

Try Telegram instead of Messenger or WhatsApp. Telegram has come a long way since Morse code. Signal is good, too, though it has fewer features; simplicity can be a good thing, sometimes. With Telegram, you can have a blog, a group, a broadcast channel, or 1:1 end-to-end encrypted conversations. Telegram was built with security and privacy in mind, and it’s free. See Telegram FAQ and Telegram Blog for more features and how to use them.

I set up a channel here: https://t.me/positiveperspective and a group here: https://t.me/positiveperspectivegroup Feel free to join; what you can post is limited and “be nice or be banned.” The features of Telegram are overwhelming; it pays to get familiar with them. It could probably replace 90% of everything you’re on, today, including Zoom:

You can get even more features with Telegram Premium at just $4.99/mo., but founder Durov has promised that free will always remain free and ad free. Elon wants how much, again, for Twitter Blue and a checkmark? Yeah, I don’t think so. It wasn’t worth it at $4.99, it’s sure not worth close to $20.

In Conclusion

You don’t need big social media; big social media needs you. You may be addicted to it, but you can kick the habit if you try. You don’t even have to kick it, just resolve to be more intentional in how you use social media, what content you provide it, and where you spend your time. Are you there to make the rich richer? To “own the Libs” or to tell Republicans they really are “deplorables”? Or are you there because you enjoy being sociable? People and businesses got along just fine before things went digital and they’d get along just fine if digital went dark. It won’t, of course – but maybe if we all signal to big social media that we’ve had just about enough of the nonsense, they’ll settle down and put humans first. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe – if we work at it together – we can lead the way.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

4 Comments

  1. Mitch Mitchell

    Wait; you didn’t mention Polywork? lol I signed up there about 2 weeks ago… and haven’t quite figured out how to use it yet. It’s not very social, so I might not be there long.

    At this point I’m fairly good. Totally off Twitter, and have a relatively small footprint on Facebook, no matter how many years I’ve been there. LinkedIn… well… somehow I’ve blown up a bit over the last 6 months, and I’ve had tons of requests to connect with… but I’ve denied 75% of them because I knew they’d start marketing to me from the jump and I’m not in the mood for that.

    There’s nowhere else to go, but I have an interesting recommendation to share. Why not have one person set up a family and friends Slack page like some of us who consider ourselves writers have done? It might not get everyone, and out of those they get maybe they’ll only get 4 or 5% who participate. Still, it’s a place to start… and it’s free! 🙂
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Flipboard And How To Deal With TrollsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I thought about including Slack. Much as I like it, my focus here was on building something of our own – either something we pay for or something on free, no advertising, open source platforms that aren’t much beholden to shareholders or advertisers or politicians or special interests.

      Slack is good, but it’s a commercial business and “free” is only free so long as it somehow serves them.

      I would have mentioned phpBB, but I don’t want to open mine up and run a public instance and it’s probably too technical for most of this post’s intended audience.

      Reply
  2. Mitchell Allen

    Holly, you have a lot of good suggestions here. I have become more hermit-like over the past two years, as that is what *I* needed in order to focus on stuff.

    Twitter has always been a lark (snicker) and Facebook is useful for the groups to which I belong. I gave up on LinkedIn years ago. I suppose that, when I come up for air, I may be inclined to check out some of these alternative platforms.

    Meanwhile, Slack works, Discord, Reddit, StackExchange and community forums take care of self-service tech support and my RSS reader fills the gaps.

    As a hermit, I’m more likely to be found in the wilderness of Kindle.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Monopoly: House RulesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I have great respect for sticking your nose in a book, digital or paper!

      As I said to Mitch Mitchell, I was trying to focus primarily on the open source and non-commercial platforms. Slack is great. Zoom is great. Hell, I even like Google most days, and Microsoft sometimes for some things. I shop at Amazon. But the problem with commercial platforms is that there really ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. You’re the product or you’re buying the product. You could be both. But it’s not yours and it’s not even close to free. The rug can be yanked out from under you on a whim.

      Reply

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