Recommended Facebook alternatives (and why replacing it’s hard)

Over the past week, online once again had an uproar over Facebook’s latest antics. Earlier this week, it was revealed that its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had been quietly having dinners with conservative talk show hosts, pundits, and others.

This led to backlash on Twitter, with the hashtag “#deletefacebook” trending (again). Calls came for this as a reason to, well, delete one’s Facebook account and switch to something else. Said calls started up again later in the week, after Zuckerberg delivered a speech at Georgetown defending Facebook’s lack of action on misinformation and misleading political ads, citing “freedom of speech.”

The problem is, there’s no real Facebook alternative to switch to, for the reasons below. While I’ve written about alternatives before, the fact is there’s no single replacement for Facebook.

Why is Facebook hard to replace?

Looking at Facebook’s positive aspects, its advantages include:

  • It’s easy to use.
  • A very large number of people use it, as the dominant social media site online. Thus, one’s family and friends will likely be on Facebook.
  • Filling what would otherwise be multiple separate functions (messaging, blogs, photo hosting, etc.) adequately enough for the average person.
  • Offering privacy settings for posts, versus everything being completely public (like a blog).

Given the above, it explains why there’s few Facebook alternatives to recommend. The alternatives usually lack one or more of the above features:

  • Twitter is Facebook’s most famous rival, but everything posted is entirely public.
  • LinkedIn matches Facebook’s features, but since it’s business-oriented, it’s all professional/”not fun.”
  • Mastodon doesn’t have a huge user base, isn’t familiar to the general public, and isn’t as easy to use. The same goes for other federated social networks (Friendica, Pixelfed, etc.).
  • Pinterest and Instagram are pictures-only. (Instagram’s also owned by Facebook, so isn’t a true alternative.)
Facebook app on phone
Photo by opopododo (Flickr / CC BY)

My suggested Facebook alternatives: a mix of services

Given the above, the only real Facebook alternatives I can think of are a mix of various services. I’d suggest any or all of the following:

  • A blog. If one needs a public spot to post one’s thoughts (or photos, videos, etc.) or a  basic online presence, a blog still works.
  • Email. Email’s the one thing everyone online is guaranteed to have. Sending photos, messages, and other items to individuals or groups of people is easy. Subscribing to and/or sending email newsletters is also another use.
  • An RSS reader. Services like Feedly offer a way to follow updates on various sites.
  • A messaging app. While WhatsApp is such an app, it’s owned by Facebook, so doesn’t count. Fortunately, there are other messaging apps; popular ones include Signal and Telegram. There’s also plain old text messaging, of course.
  • Another social network. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon (or similar federated social networks) are all options. However, Instagram isn’t—again, it’s owned by Facebook.

Conclusion

For those determined to completely quit Facebook, a mix of the above services should fill most of Facebook’s core functions. While they aren’t a single “jack of all trades” solution, one can still stay in contact with others, have an online presence, and enjoy a modern Internet experience.

If wondering, I do still have a Facebook account, but mainly for the purpose of following family, relatives, and online friends who aren’t anywhere else online. I shut down the Facebook page I had for the blog early this year.

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