Over the past year I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Facebook and have finally decided to abandon it. It was Salim Virani’s article Get Your Loved Ones Off Facebook that finally sealed the deal. I’m not going to spend anytime reiterating what he has written. If you’re on Facebook you really should read it yourself. What I intend to do here is detail how I am transitioning away from Facebook by replacing it with different services.
I’ve been a regular user of the internet since 1997 so I had 10 years of experience before joining FB. Remembering the days of the internet before Facebook is an interesting exercise. There’s no doubt that FB provides a convenient access point for sharing anything and everything via timelines, groups, and messaging. From images to video it’s all just a click or two to post or view content from practically any internet connected device.
A few resources for staying in touch. The most obvious is the old standby email. Make sure you collect the email addresses for folks you want to stay in touch with. And make sure your email address is available to those who may prefer email.
Chatting without FB Messenger is easily accomplished via free services and apps such as Skype. With Skype I can have private text, video or audio chats or group chats from my Mac or iPhone or iPad. Also available for Windows and Android. Individual texting and group texting is yet another option which is increasingly easy to access from a variety of devices and operating systems. In our home we’re using Macs, iPhones and iPads to message with each other as well as anyone with a cell phone. Twitter is an interesting blend of messaging and wall posting and might as well be in the mix.
The Facebook “wall” is also replaceable though it requires a bit more effort for everyone involved. For the sharer it requires setting up a blog which is fairly easy to do and free. Free options include Google’s Blogger platform (the home of this blog), WordPress, or paid options such as Typepad. Here’s a nice list of free and paid options. When you set-up your blog you have a variety of options such as allowing comments to articles as well as visual/design customizations via themes. A nice change from Facebook’s persistent blue graphics everywhere.
Then there is the process of gathering up the blog feeds of friends, similar to friending people. This part is not as easy as it is in a closed ecosystem such as Facebook. One of the easiest ways to get started is via a free service such as Feedly. Set-up an account and then begin adding the feeds of friends blogs. This is accomplished by clicking the “Add Content” link in the Feedly sidebar then copy/pasting the address of the blog into the field. Feedly will look for the rss feed for the blog and give you the option of subscribing. Done. I’ve been using RSS for 10+ years so I’ve got a fairly large list of sites that I read, or, in some cases, skim. Feedly allows for easy organization of feeds by topic areas via folders. I’ve got a folders for a variety of interests: astronomy, science, Apple and tech news, general news, design and most recently I’ve added a “Friends” folder in which I will place the feeds for any Facebook friends that have a blog. You can access your Feedly via web browser or a variety of rss apps. On the Mac I prefer accessing via web browser, on my iPad or iPhone the free Feedly app is excellent.
What about photos and video? Photos can be fairly easily added right to your blog’s timeline via upload from whatever device you’re using. Or, if you prefer a dedicated photo service Flickr is a free service that offers plenty of space (1 TB) for sharing photos. A nice side benefit of flickr is that it is in itself a social medium which encourages following and commenting. Flickr photos can also be posted to blogs. Video can be easily accomplished with YouTube or Vimeo, both of which offer the option to embed video in your blog.
There’s no doubt that developing your own ecosystem takes a bit more work but it comes with the benefit of greater control of content presentation and independence from Facebook’s data collection machine. Well, not quite independence because it is becoming quite clear that it is nearly impossible to be clear of such collection but why make it easy?