Social Networks

You probably shouldn’t be using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any of the tens of other social media apps that you are using right now. Why? — well, i can go on and on about all the different kinds of privacy violations they have done.

Or i could just recommend you to watch The Social Dilemma, a Netflix documentary on social media and its effects on us, by the very own people who created it.

Social Media platforms like Facebook has turned into a behemoth, with heaps of personal data that they use to not just target ads, but to influence our decisions. Social Media is the problem beneath all other problems:

Mental Health

A 5,208 person study found that higher social media use correlated with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction.

American Journal of Epidemiology, 2017

Democracy

150% increase in countries using organized social media manipulation campaigns over the last two years

Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation, 2019

Discrimination

64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms steered them there.

Internal Facebook report, 2018

Persuasive dark pattern designs like push notifications and the endless scroll of your newsfeed have created a feedback loop that keeps us coming back to these apps. Algorithms tend to promote content that sparks outrage, hate, and amplify biases within the data that we feed them.

Facebook is the worst among them — owning Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. Here are a few reasons why you should not use Facebook:

  • Because Facebook is lobbying against privacy laws, globally. Source.
  • Because Facebook was covertly paying teens 13 years old and older to spy on them. Source.
  • Because Facebook gave exclusive access to your private messages and friends to large tech companies, device vendors, retailers, entertainment sites, automakers, and media organizations. Source.
  • Because Facebook facilitated Brexit by spreading misinformation, made a fortune and tried to sue to prevent people from finding out. Source.
  • Because Facebook hired climate change deniers as fact-checkers. Source.
  • Because Facebook employees are reading your private messages one by one to train Facebook’s AI. Source.
  • Because Facebook hired the author of PATRIOT act, the most significant threat to civil liberties, privacy, and democratic traditions in US history, as general counsel. Source.
  • Because Facebook not only knows conspiracy theories are being spread on the platform, they make a fortune out of it. Source.
  • Because Facebook plan to fuse Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp is not about your privacy, It’s about consolidating all the data they have on you. Source.
  • Because Facebook employees say “F*ck ethics, money is everything”. Source.

Thankfully, you don’t have to use them anymore, there are a handful of open source, privacy-focused alternatives to these social media behemoths that are usable, fun, and easy to convince friends and family to join.

Private Social Media Networks

Alright, let’s get into the good stuff; here are some of the most privacy-respecting alternatives to popular social media networks.

Mastodon — Twitter Alternative

Mastodon is a self-hosted social network, based on open web protocols and free, open source software. It is decentralized kinda like email, users exist on different servers or different platforms but still communicate with each other.

Mastodon is fairly popular and diverse when it comes to users, has a clean and intuitive user interface, and easy to set up yourself. It feels like using Twitter, but with a much longer word count and added privacy and security features.

You can join any of hundreds of public and private instances or host your own. You can easily follow users on any of the other instances or communities, regardless of the instance you have joined.

Mastodon is the one you should join to get started as it is fairly popular and easy to use. There is a Firefox extension called Mastodon — Simplified Federation!, that improves usability for remote Mastodon instances.

Friendica — Facebook Alternative

Friendica is an open source, distributed social network, with the focus on decentralization, privacy, interoperability, and easy server installation. It aims to federate with as many other social networks as possible.

Currently, Friendica users can integrate contacts from Facebook, Twitter, diaspora*, GNU social, App.net, Pump.io and other services in their social streams. The list of supported networks is growing, e-mail contacts and RSS feeds can be integrated too.

Friendica runs on commodity hosting platforms powered by PHP/MySQL/Apache. Every Friendica installation can connect with any other to create a social network without limits. And one that nobody can own or control.

Pixelfed — Instagram Alternative

Pixelfed is a free and ethical photo sharing platform, powered by ActivityPub federation. It is open source, federated, ad-free and privacy focussed alternative to Instagram.

Pixelfed has all the bells and whistles like options to add filters, sharing photo albums, chronologically ordered timeline, along with privacy and security focussed features like hidden follower count, unlisted and private posts, content warnings, and much more.

diaspora* — Google+ Alternative

diaspora* is an open source social network based on three key philosophies — Decentralization, Freedom, and Privacy. It is designed to address privacy concerns related to centralized social networks by allowing users set up their own server (or “pod”) to host content.

These “Pods” can then interact to share status updates, photographs, and other social data. You can also use diaspora* as your home base to post to your profiles on other major social services like Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress.

Pleroma

Pleroma is a free, federated social network based on open protocols. It can work flawlessly with GNU Social, Mastodon, and may other ActivityPub and OStatus implementatios like Pixelfed.

Movim

Movim is an open source, federated social platform that relies on the XMPP standard, letting you exchange with many other clients on all devices such as Conversations or Dino.

Private Social News Aggregators

Here are some privacy-respecting online bulletin boards that you should switch to:

Aether

Aether is a free and open source, self-governing communities with auditable moderation and mod elections that helps in creating peer-to-peer ephemeral public communities. It keeps 6 months of posts by default. It’s gone after. If something is worth keeping, someone will save it within six months — but not from beyond that.

Tildes

Tildes is a web-based, open source, self-hostable online bulletin board that is driven by its users’ interest. The organization behind Tildes is a not-for-profit corporation with no investors, no ads, minimal user tracking, that paves the way to high-quality content and discussions.

Raddle

Raddle is a free and open source, web-based forum, which is a public Postmill instance focussed on privacy and anti-censorship. There are no ads, no tracking, no user profiling, and they don’t collect or share any user data with anyone.

Lemmy

Lemmy is a federated and open source link aggregator, that can easily be self-hosted. It is built with Rust, has a clean minimal interface, mobile-friendliness, and full vote (+/-) like old Reddit.

notabug.io

notabug.io is a free and open source peer-to-peer link aggregator, with a very similar interface to that of good old reddit.

Private Messaging Apps

Your private messages should not be anyone’s business, use an open source, and privacy-respecting messaging apps.

I have already written about Private Messaging Apps, where you can find all kinds of messaging apps — centralized, decentralized, and peer-to-peer, that are open source and use strong encryption to keep your messages secure.

I have also written about video & voice calling apps as well as Team chat apps int the same Encrypted Messaging Apps post.

Additional Resources

  • JustDeleteMe: A directory of direct links to delete your account from all kinds of web services.
  • Forget: A service that automatically deletes your old posts on Twitter and Mastodon that everyone has forgotten about.

Private Social Networks

I would recommend that you go create an account on mastodon and join some of the public communities that are mentioned above. You should also switch to an encrypted messaging app like Signal instead of using Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or iMessage.

That’s all Folks!

I will be updating this page frequently with more encryption tools, and information. You should check out Encrypted Messaging Apps to securely encrypt your online communications.

Do let me know of any feedback, tips, or suggestions based on social networks you are using, feel free to drop a comment below!

1 thought on “Social Networks”

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