Header image courtesy of Lisa Fotios (Pexels)
Ah, social media. We love being able to connect with friends and family with a few quick swipes, but what we’re not huge fans of is having our personal data mined for profit. If you haven’t given a second thought about what media giants such as Facebook (as well as Instagram and WhatsApp under it) are doing with your information to make money, it’s time to seriously consider it.
Security and privacy issues aside, nobody important to millennials and under are truly active on Facebook anyway. Besides, mainstream social media is a chaotic place. Between boomers still confusing the post function with Google’s search bar, Karens screaming at each other on expat mums groups, and getting Zucc’ed simply for saying “reverse racism isn’t real,” we can safely say we’re sick of it. Here are some alternative social media platforms where the crowd is more select and inclusive, and the content is cooler. See you on the other side!
Does anyone remember the big waves caused back in 2014 when it became mandatory for Facebook users to use their proper legal name? That same year, Ello gained traction as a “Facebook killer” which doesn’t sell users’ information and data to third parties. It later developed aesthetically and evolved into a platform for creatives to share their work, but can still be utilised by all kinds of users.
You also won’t be bombarded by ads, as Ello is dead-set against forwarding of data for personalised advertising. Instead, they make revenue by charging for in-app purchases to unlock extra functions, though the platform itself is still great when used free. Its focus on high-quality content means Ello is a chill environment to linger in.
We find it difficult to put our love for Peach into words. This app-based microblogging platform from the founder of Vine is the welcome antithesis to the weirdly hostile world of social media. Inviting and blessedly private, Peach feels more like peeking into tiny sections of your friends’ diaries that you have curation control over.
You can’t visit people’s pages unless someone gives you their handle, so those that do see your content and interact with you are people you vibe with already. Content can also be jazzed up with Easter egg-like commands that bring up minigames, or functions such as a text-based gif maker. It’s a place where people don’t care about chasing numbers and are comfortable being vulnerable in. While it seems ironic to use the term ‘safe space’ in relation to the internet, goddamnit, Peach is a safe space that is a joy to use and be a part of.
The one big cloud hanging over this platform is that although it is still functional, the devs seem to have abandoned it, so updates are few and far between. We hate to say it, but unless Peach sees a resurgence in users, it’s likely that this juicy app is living on borrowed time.
With a pool of eight million users, MeWe is probably the strongest Facebook alternative judging by audience numbers. Apart from your standard feed, functions such as groups, direct messages, tagging, and content permissions are also available. Extra features on top of these are available for a fee, such as encrypted chat, video calls, dark mode, premium emojis, and extra cloud storage.
This means that MeWe doesn’t rely on tracking or selling user data, and can remain ad-free. In line with their policy of not meddling with content, feeds are left in a simple chronological order instead of being filtered by promoted or “personalised” content. It is also available globally in 19 languages, and doesn’t require much of a learning curve at all when migrating from Facebook.
One of the longest-running social media alternatives, Diaspora is open-source and available for anyone to host and use. How it works is that users choose servers, called pods, in which to set up accounts. Their account information will then be stored on those pods, and they can interact with any other user on the network.
As part of the Fediverse, users also have the option of hosting their own pods, which means they can be in full control of the privacy of their data and the content they post. This, of course, requires some technical know-how but there’s plenty of information online that can teach you. Though it seems to lack some Facebook functions such as groups and events, it is a small price to pay for their promise of no advertising, no tracking, and no data-selling.
This is more of a Twitter alternative, focusing on feeds and concise posts (with a 500-character limit). If you’re mostly scrolling through your social media feeds glancing at headlines, then Mastodon should be right up your alley.
Users can find and join interest-based servers and interact with other people also on those servers. Similar to Diaspora, Mastodon is part of the Fediverse, so anyone can host their own servers for maximum privacy and control. If you join a server hosted by someone else, then there’s a degree of trust involved, but it can’t be worse than blindly giving your data to tech giants for free!
Mastodon’s system doesn’t collect information on users, is ad-free, and is open-source and decentralised, meaning it’s not controlled by any one individual or corporation, as is also the case with Diaspora above.
Vero is an ethical social media platform that doesn’t rely on algorithms to keep users scrolling and clicking. This means they don’t data mine and show no ads. The low-level user data that they do collect is only used to generate reports on how often the app is used, so users can manage their screen time; even this is by default turned off.
The most interesting part of Vero is that users can divide their contacts into four categories: followers, acquaintances, friends, and close friends. For each post that’s published, users can choose the target group that can view it, mirroring how you would select information to share with different groups of acquaintances in real life.
The devs are purportedly mulling over paid annual subscriptions for the app, but for now it’s still free to use, with their free lifetime membership offer still ongoing at time of publishing.
It’s free to use and post on Steem, but if you want to create multiple accounts—meaning you can post, upvote, and interact more—then there’s a fee. Steemit is also ad-free, and claims to have made over US$40,000,000 of payments. Getting paid to use social media, instead of our usage earning Facebook money, is an attractive concept, ngl.
Available on web
Unlike the other social media platforms on this list, EyeEm is very much image-focused, and is a clear alternative for the Facebook-owned and KOL-dominated Instagram. Sharing of images is the main function, but what sets this app apart is that users can choose to put their photos up on the company’s marketplace. EyeEm then sells these images with stock licenses, and users will receive a share of the revenue. Because of the monetary incentive, the app itself is filled with high-quality image content, making for some very aesthetically pleasing scrolling, and a good source of inspiration.
As a startup based in Berlin, EyeEm is bound by German data protection laws, which are blessedly more strict than those in the USA. Users also have full access to the terms and conditions of how their uploaded data may be used, with a mass-friendly, comprehensive summary to go alongside it for ease of understanding.
Now, we’re not advocating for watching shifty content online, but the fact remains that Google-owned YouTube censors hundreds of videos each day that it deems threatening to traditional conservative ideologies; topics that have been hidden include LGBTQIA+ content and channels that Google feels goes against their political position.
We’re not for being force-fed a narrative that conforms with and benefits nothing more than conglomerate greed, and that’s where altCensored comes in. This platform proudly sticks it to YouTube, featuring content that the mainstream video host has decided unsuitable for public consumption. Before you clutch your pearls, these are not illegal videos, just ones that have somehow offended YouTube’s sensibilities.
If you prefer making up your own mind about issues such as unequal gender representation, the pros and cons of 5G technology, and whether vaccinations are a good choice, then altCensored will be your cup of tea. Of course, you’re bound to come across some brow-raising content, but we think sifting through hooey is a small price to pay for freedom of speech and expression without censorship.
Available on web
A similar concept to Steem is Minds, an open-source, community-driven, and privacy-heavy platform that rewards users for their activity. Users create and post content, then earn tokens which they can use to upgrade their channels, boost their content, or support other creators. There is also the option to receive payment directly in USD, Bitcoin, or Ether.
Users are also selected at random to vote on and make joint decisions on content moderation so the governance of the community is fair. The infrastructure itself isn’t decentralised like Mastodon and Diaspora, but rumour has it the minds behind this platform are considering a similar system.