A friend on my feed recently shared a story about a day in the life of a Facebook moderator, which unsurprisingly isn't a great time. After reading it they were asking themself if they could genuinely leave Facebook. That inspired me to ask the question on my feed "What keeps you on Facebook?", hoping that I could write about my experience leaving and what I did to replace the things that kept me there.
While I may be back for now, I think I found some solutions that could help people for a few problems I was having when I finally decided to leave it. Hopefully this can serve as inspiration to you in your pursuit to finally hop off of Facebook, but if not you can at least implement one or two of these things and slowly add more over time so that when you feel confident enough to hit the permanent delete button, you'll be ready. Most of this can peacefully co-exist with Facebook too honestly anyway, so maybe it'll be useful even if you never leave.
I could go on a long philosophical rant about why you should leave, from the privacy invasions characteristic of a dystopian novel to the huge amounts of mental energy it can suck away from you, but I'm sure if you're reading this you already have your own reasons for being interested in leaving or entertaining the idea.
The sad reality is that in some ways Facebook may be the best place for certain stuff depending on what your goals are or what you're looking for. However, you'd be surprised just how easy it really is to get by without Facebook. Admittedly, I'm back on it though, but I wrote about why at length already.
I've ordered this list based on what I've found most important personally. It reflects my own needs, so for some of the missing pieces you may have to do your own digging still. I did conduct a Facebook poll to try and see what people use theirs for to get an idea of what people might want to read about. So while I could go on about all of Facebook's features, I've decided to stick to my own experience and what people cared to hear about.
Table of Contents
Since it's a long one...
Surprisingly a pretty big one in my limited survey. Facebook's algorithm makes following news sources highly unpredictable which is super annoying if you want the latest updates from sources you trust. So instead of dealing with that bullshit, you can use RSS. Click the link if you want the scoop on it, but I'm just focusing on how to use it.
The first thing you need to find is an RSS reader. Think of it as a personal electronic mailbox that's on your digital doorfront. So what you need are addresses that stuff your mail box with chronologically sorted, no-bullshit news straight from your favorite publications as they push them out.
The good news is that some RSS readers will just find the feed if you enter in the website's address though, so you might not even have to think about it too hard depending on what you go with.
You can use RSS to follow podcasts, YouTube channels, blogs, you name it. In fact, you can use it to follow my own blog! I try to make it simple, so you can click here or the logo above to copy the address to add me. It's just that sometimes other websites don't advertise this functionality for whatever reason.
If you have trouble finding an RSS feed, try googling it. A simple "[website] rss feed" will suffice usually, but in one case I was trying to follow the local news and I was getting stumped on finding any RSS functionality. However, I googled the name of the CMS (Content Management System) that I found at the bottom of the page and added "rss" to the search and it took me to the documentation for the software they use. Turns out, all I had to do was add &f=rss at the end of the URL after using their website's search function and it worked! Usually it's easier than that though.
Practice on my own blog if you'd like by adding it into a feed reader of your choice. Some web browsers even have readers of their own built in. There's a variety of readers to choose from, some only working locally on the computer they're installed on and others being online subscription services you can use that will be stored in the cloud.
If RSS is too complicated for your tastes, there are other ways to get your news from Google to Apple to Reddit, but this puts more control over who you get to see in your own hands without algorithms.
Refer to these links for more:
- Wikipedia - List of Feed Aggregators by OS they're available on
- Fossbytes - Best RSS reader apps
- Lifewire - Best online RSS readers
Keeping up with friends and family, besides following the news, was hands down the biggest reason people are still on Facebook. Which makes sense, because that's the reason I'm back. Honestly, I haven't really found an alternative that I would claim allows you to stay in touch with friends as well as I'd like.
Sure, there are alternatives like Reddit, Snapchat and Instagram, but Instagram is owned by Facebook anyway so it's like a different room of the same house. I do find it less addictive though so maybe that or Snapchat could be a way to stay in touch if you find Facebook problematic for whatever reason.
I did dive into an alternative up-and-coming social media platform called "The Fediverse". The technology has some great potential to reshape the social media landscape in the face of increasing concerns over Facebook's monopoly of our online social lives. The way it works is it lets a bunch of different platforms communicate with each other through a standarized protocol. It'd be like if Facebook and Twitter would let you subscribe to users from either platform, for example.
The low barrier to entry gives communities an easy way to create their own online space so that they can have more control over them without corporate influence. It's devoid of any advertisements, bullshit feed algorithms that prey on your pscyhe, and has a somewhat healthier community (parts of it anyhow) that actually wants to invite people to be themselves without all the hate you find elsewhere. It's not perfect, but it's neat.
I personally use Mastodon with the handle @firstname.lastname@example.org (at the time of writing anyway, see the about/contact page for the latest if this link is broken), but if you dig around there are other ways to set up your own account. Pretty much only lefty nerds interested in tech and queer people of color are on there right now, so it might be a niche only interesting to myself and a select few Facebook friends for the time being. The memes are pretty funny too, but it takes a while to get the in-jokes. Anyway, probably not for everyone, but that's been my journey into the realm of alternative social media.
Music & sharing projects
Interestingly I wasn't the only one who wanted to find a way to share my music, and by extension personal projects, with friends. It's one of the reasons I've returned to Facebook before. I would previously share SoundCloud links on my feed for friends to keep up with.
But honestly, SoundCloud is pretty damn awful. At least sound quality wise, although the interface is decent enough. Listening to any of the higher frequencies in a song though makes it apparent that SoundCloud is clearly not making enough money or something because that shit is compressed as hell.
So I actually ended up making this website with my own music section to fix that problem. By using GitHub pages I have free hosting for static web pages, all I had to buy was the domain name for the website (~$3-11/yr depending) and use Pelican to generate the website with. There's technically a limit to how much you can upload, but 1GB is a lot of space for a blog before you start having problems with storage.
I still link to other places you can find my music like Bandcamp and SoundCloud depending on where I've uploaded it to, but this way people can at least come to me to find the best quality version of my work, even if they prefer to listen to it elsewhere. You can also share all your music with something like DistroKid which will distribute it for like $20/yr, whether or not you have a website.
As for the actual "publicity" side of things, that's beyond the scope of this article and I'm not really the one you should consult on "getting big", but by having my own web page people will at least always know where they can find me, whether I'm on Facebook or not. I also intend to use this space for any other projects I get involved in, but music has been my biggest so far.
Social media has created a convenient way for people to keep track of all of their photos, and Facebook is quite useful. However, "you never really know what you've got until it's gone" as the saying goes, and it's particularly true when the Internet is down and you can't access your shit.
That's why I use an external hard drive to back up all my important photos. Really there's no reason not to use an online service like what's offered by Google, Apple, Facebook or Instagram as well as having your photos backed up locally, but I personally don't find myself sharing my photos that often anyway.
I set up my own local over-the-network backup solution that automatically transfers my photos from my phone to my computer, which I'd like to write about more at some point in the future (definitely beyond the scope of this article), but even just following the routine of backing up any photos from your phone/camera to a hard drive every month is a simple way to make sure you don't lose everything if your phone dies. It's also nice for any photos you wouldn't want to lose in a security leak or by having your account suspended by surprise.
P.S: If you have photos on Facebook you want to download there's a way to actually download your entire photo collection, just search "download facebook photo backup".
As far as sharing photos though, I haven't really looked around a whole lot because honestly it doesn't matter as much to me and I feel weird about putting my photos online a lot of times anyway. But if it does matter to you, you'll have to do your own digging and let me know what you find because as far as I'm aware, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are the best in town for that one.
Messaging and friends list
This one was pretty important to me, but super easy to replace. You can literally think of anything you use that isn't Facebook and you're already there. I use Signal, Telegram, SMS, Email, Instagram (although technically also owned by Facebook), Whatsapp (same boat as Instagram), sometimes I check my Snapchat, but honestly you probably don't need my help to find a technical solution here.
You can use Facebook to get all of your friends contact info and put it into whatever you use to save your contacts. If you have a phone you probably already have some cloud-based way of doing this. If you want to hop off the cloud though, you can opt to save contacts locally.
In my experience, I found it was very challenging to find the time in the day to keep up with nearly the same number of people though as I did through Facebook. The solution here is partly kinda beyond just finding the right technology unfortunately, which is a whole 'nother topic on its own. However, you might find that you just don't need to keep up with everyone you've met either, which is totally cool too.
Believe it or not, it's not impossible to find events without Facebook! Meetup is very useful for finding events locally. Now actually going to them is another story. Something also true of Facebook when the real issue is finding the time to do anything ever lol, but it's a good alternative if you want to look around at what's going on.
For birthdays, some calendar apps even let you set friends' birthdays in your calendar from the contact info if you want to keep track of that. Could be another thing you add to your list of details to get from friends before you hop off Facebook.
Other ways to find events include just looking at the local paper, or asking what your friends are up to and they'll probably let you know. Or if you go to a café or bar, sometimes they have a bulletin board. If there's a TV show you like or band they likely have a website you can visit with touring dates.
Granted, all of that is predicated on living in a city where people do things.
Chronicle of life events
People didn't mention this as a thing they particularly care about, however I notice some people use Facebook to post memories of way back from years ago. I honestly don't keep track of many of my personal milestones on Facebook, so it's not that useful to me for that. What I have found helpful for remembering those sorts of things is keeping a daily log which I wrote about extensively already, so if this is a reason you find yourself using Facebook, consider reading what I wrote on that here.
Hopefully some of this has been helpful to you, or at the very least interesting. Some of these things are just good ideas, even if you don't plan on leaving, because they allow you to take back some of the control you've potentially given up over your digital life by letting Facebook take care of it. Even if you already deleted it, you can still do some of these things to replace the useful bits.
However, as I've said before you might not be able to replace everything to the same degree. Some of the things I didn't even touch on in this post such as groups, the marketplace, job postings, etc, either have more popular alternatives you can search for if you want or I just didn't use them enough to care. For example, I've gotten most job postings through Indeed or found used stuff on Craigslist. Some of the things you may have to decide to live without if you ever do finally decide to leave Facebook.
Regardless, this has been a summary of my journey in finding ways to replace a few of the useful bits of Facebook through my numerous times leaving.