Happy New Year! According to our calendrical overlords, now’s the time to hit the reset button on our routines and stop doing dumb stuff. Me, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. After deleting my Twitter accounts last year, I guess I just caught the bug of not wanting to be voluntarily spammed and surveiled anymore. I know, so weird.
Some people are like, “How are you supposed to maintain normal human relationships?” Don’t worry, I tell them. There are way better ways to be internet friends than Facebook and Twitter. In fact, most of them already existed before those! I know! So weird!
If you want to stay in touch with people like me who shut off our accounts, or you’re ready to get rid of yours, too, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to have internet friends in the No Social Media Club (N.S.M.C.). You may already be a member!
Email and Calendars
Yes, really. Email is the best communication method in basically every way. The only thing wrong with it is people not knowing how to use it politely for one-to-many communication. More on that in a sec.
The key is to have a personal-use-only email address and only use it with things and people you actually care about. Too late for your current personal address? Start a new one. Who cares? You can have as many email accounts as you want. To use email to maintain internet friendships, just make sure you have an account you like.
The best part about email accounts is that they usually come with calendars! That means you can have events, and you don’t even need Facebook! How about that. In fact, you and everyone you know on Facebook is almost certainly also using email-based calendars, and, obviously, Facebook is the unnecessary one.
But what happens when you want to send an update to a bunch of people via email? Well, you can just, you know, do it — assuming you PUT EVERY RECIPIENT IN BCC instead of leaving them visible like an animal. You know that thing where everybody who got the same email as you is emailing you every five minutes, and there’s nothing you can do? That’s what visible-recipient animals do to people.
BCC email blasts are okay for occasional personal announcements, but they still aren’t totally polite to your internet friends because they’re non-consensual. For sharing things with people by email on a regular basis, its best to use a subscription newsletter service. That lets people opt into or out of your email messages to their hearts’ content. I use TinyLetter, and it’s completely free.
But how can people find you by email or find out you have a newsletter? That is what personal websites like the one you are currently on are for: Contact or Subscribe. Are you someone I know who wants to tell me you have a newsletter or wants to make email contact? Just do it!.
If I could somehow cause a piece of software to literally die in a literal fire, it would be Facebook Messenger. Has there ever been anything more pointless in the entire world? Not a single feature provides us with anything we wanted and didn’t already have. Facebook just added horrible things we don’t want on top of our text messages and then drove us insane until we used it anyway. I hate you, Facebook Messenger. You are the worst product ever. DIAF.
You folks do not need me to teach you how to text with your friends. Just don’t use Facebook Messenger for it. We Apple flunkies would probably prefer if you used iMessage, but WhatsApp is fine. In fact, for replacing large groups like they have on Facebook proper, WhatsApp is probably better. It’s annoying to have to use two services, but iMessage is honestly too much more better-er for me to stop using it with my Apple friends merely for the sake of unification. But yeah, WhatsApp is fine.
What about public posts? Well, we’re all very important public intellectuals; that’s why we use the internet, of course. Fortunately, we can still post things for the public without social media, and people on social media can still see them! Isn’t that the best? People without social media accounts can also see them, in fact.
To do that, you’ll want a blog. For those of you who don’t remember blogs, you’re reading one right now, and you’ve read millions of them since you joined Facebook without even realizing it. There are tons of ways to make a blog, the best of which involve having a website for it. WordPress is good if you’re mainly concerned with the blog. If you want to make yourself a pro-level website and think of the blog as a side benefit, I like Squarespace.
Theoretically, you could use Medium or something, but let’s just lump that in with the other social media sites we’re here to talk about quitting, because Medium is for animals.
When you blog, you can send links to your posts by email or text message or any other way of conveying text — even by petroglyph! — because blog posts are on the web, and things on the web have URLs. You may have forgotten what those are since you joined Facebook, but even so, you probably used them all the time to share things on Facebook.
(Speaking of which, if you’re a N.S.M.C. member, I guess you’ll have to ask someone else to share your blog posts on Facebook if you care. On Twitter, you can have a throwaway account you never check that just auto-tweets things from your bots. That’s what I have; it’s powered by Pinboard and IFTTT.)
But isn’t blogging, like, hard? No. I wrote, shot, and published this whole post on my phone. If you want to know how, you can ask me.
But like, where do N.S.M.C. members go to… check? You know, check the feeds? Hit the slot machine? Engage™ with Premium Content™?
My new slot machine is Apple News, actually. It’s way more relevant for me than Facebook has ever been, and it’s also where I prefer to read my Washington Post subscription, since it feeds my likes and dislikes back to the general News algorithm — but that’s really my secondary news source. I get most of my feeding done in my RSS reader.
I’ve written a lot about online reading — and my solutions have remained basically the same since 2013 — so just go read my old post if you want to dig in deep. Suffice it to say that, using one familiar app or website, you can read basically all websites that are good by receiving their new posts kind of like emails. It’s the perfect way to keep up with your friends’ blogs, but I even read mainstream news sources like Axios in mine.
One power-nerd tip: The RSS service I use, Feedbin, gives you a secret email address you can use to receive email newsletters by RSS instead of in your email, which I find is way better for long newsletters that are more like articles than messages. The messages get feedbin.com URLs, so you can even save them in read-later apps like Instapaper.
I don’t think you need anything else to completely replace Facebook and Twitter. Have I left out any of their features?
Photos? Beyond sharing photos using any of the options above, built-in photo services from Apple and Google both allow sharing of albums through interfaces at least as good as Facebook’s.
Finding new people to read or talk to? Welcome to the pre-George W. Bush-era internet. Everything was fine.
Stalking? Google should still work.
Maybe there’s no other app or website better than Facebook for discovering local events you wouldn’t otherwise know about. I’m content to try just keeping up with bands and venues and stuff via email/blogs/web, finding out from friends by word of mouth, and seeing how it goes. I suspect my use of Facebook Events was much more performative/aspirational than actually useful. When it came down to what I was actually going to do on a given day or night, it was in text messages with friends where I honestly decided.