BY NOW, YOU’RE probably aware of the hurricane tearing its way through Facebook. Over the weekend, both The Guardian and The New York Times published explosive reports about the improper use of data belonging to 50 million Facebook users by Trump campaign-affiliated data firm Cambridge Analytica.
The incident is the most high-profile misuse of Facebook’s systems to become public, but it’s far from the only one. Russian propagandists slipped through Facebook’s advertising safeguards to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. In 2014, the social network allowed academics to use the News Feed to tinker with users’ emotions. The United Nations even said earlier this month that Facebook played a role in exacerbating the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Facebook itself has admitted that mindlessly scrolling on its platform isn’t good for you.
If all that has you thinking about deleting Facebook entirely, you’re far from alone. (Quitting the social network is also somewhat of a first-world privilege, since for many peopleFacebook functions as the entire internet itself.) But going cold turkey can be hard; Facebook actually provides useful services sometimes, and there’s no one-for-one replacement.
Fortunately, you can pretty easily cobble together anything you might miss from Facebook with a combination of apps and services. It won’t be the exact same, but at least you’ll be less tempted to go back.
Lots of services can feed you the latest news. Facebook, though, displays the specific stories your friends and family are talking about. If you value that feature, Nuzzel is a great choice. You can sync the app to other social networks you might use, like Twitter and LinkedIn, and it will feed you the articles your friends, as well as friends of friends, are talking about. The app also has a “Best of Nuzzel” feature where you can see the stories being widely discussed across the whole platform.
For more general news that can delight and surprise, try Digg, an aggregation site that prioritizes deeply reported features on a range of topics as well as lots of fun and quirky news stories. And of course, iPhone and iPad owners can always just fire up Apple News if they don’t want to bother setting up a whole new system. None of those fit the bill? Here’s a deeper look at Facebook News Feed alternatives.
One of Facebook’s most useful features isn’t the main app itself, but its spinoff app Messenger. But while Messenger makes it easy to chat with Facebook friends, it’s also confusing and riddled with unnecessary clutter. If you’re looking for a clean and easy-to-use messaging app, try Signal. It’s a free, end-to-end encrypted messaging service, approved by security researchers, that sticks to the basics. There are no animated stickers or fancy chat bots, but Signaldoes an excellent job of keeping you securely connected to your friends and family.
It also has a desktop version, allowing you to sync messages between your computer and phone, just like on Messenger. Signal can import your contacts, so it’s easy to start a thread with anyone you already have saved in your phone. Signal also has several additional security features that might come in handy if you’re aiming to avoid surveillance, like the ability to set messages to delete after a certain amount of time. You can also use Signal to make voice and video calls, just like on Messenger. There are absolutely no advertisements, and the app does not collect your personal information.
Yes, WhatsApp also offers encrypted messaging, using the same underlying protocol as Signal. But Facebook owns WhatsApp—and can extract some metadata from its users—which defeats the purpose of trying to rid you life of the social network. Besides, even WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton says it’s time to delete Facebook.
One of the primary reasons to stay on Facebook is not to miss an invite to a party or other event. It’s worth unpacking that notion in the first place: If your friend or family member doesn’t realize you’re not on Facebook, do they really value your presence at the event they’re planning? If someone genuinely wants you somewhere, they’ll find a way to invite you, Facebook or no.
From the planning side, collecting peoples’ contact info can be a pain, sure. But that’s a one-time bother. From there, use Paperless Post for beautiful and functional email invites and RSVP tracking. And for more rote calendar-coordination, use Doodle to find the best day for a dinner or meeting that works for everyone. The site lets each guest respond with a time that works for them, so you can easily figure out how best to accommodate everyone’s schedule.
Another worry with deleting Facebook is that without it, you won’t be able to remember anyone’s birthday. Luckily, there’s a way to export your friends’ birthdays directly from Facebook before you delete your account. First, log into the social network, then click Events on the left-hand side. Toward the bottom, there’s an option to add events to your calendar of choice, like Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, or Apple Calendar. There, tap “Learn More.” You’ll be led to a full set of instructions for how to export all your friends’ birthdays.
If you’re friends with hundreds or thousands of people on Facebook, it understandably might not be worthwhile to put them all in your Gcal. In this case, it might be easiest just to take 20 minutes or so to add your close friends and family member’s special days to your calendar. And really, did the annual onslaught of best wishes on Facebook add much to your life in the first place?
In 2016, Facebook introduced Marketplace, a feature allowing users to buy and sell items from people in their communities. As a replacement, consider Nextdoor, an app designed to keep you in the loop about what’s happening in your neighborhood. It has a free and for sale section that, like Marketplace, emphasizes local offerings, and feels less sketchy than Craigslist.
Groups are the hardest feature of Facebook to replace, since they serve a wide range of purposes for different people. If you’re looking to organize friends and family in one place, GroupMe is a great choice. The app helps create an organized group chat, where you can share photos and messages. If you’re looking for a larger circle of people interested in the same topic, there’s almost certainly a sub-group on Reddit to fill your needs. The forum site has active communities organized around everything from skincare to anime.
For many people, Facebook accounts have become de-facto identities across the internet, thanks to the social network’s integration with third-party apps like Tinder and Spotify. When you sign up for a service using Facebook instead of filling out a form with your personal information, deleting that Facebook account creates additional headaches.
The best replacement is a password manager, which can store your credentials for every site you use in one place. It can also generate a new, secure password every time you sign up for a new website or service. Here’s an in-depth guide to choosing the best password manager for you and why you should be using one. Our two favorite picks are 1Password and LastPass.
While you’ll still need to provide information like your name and email address—you usually don’t need to manually input this info if you sign up with Facebook—using a password manager will prevent third-party apps from collecting the personal information you’ve provided to the social network.
One word of warning: Many dating apps require Facebook integration to work, meaning you won’t be able to use them if you delete your account. You can still create a Tinder account without Facebook, but you will loose all your current matches and conversations. Hinge and Bumble require you to have a Facebook account to sign up, though the latter company says it’s working on dropping that requirement.
One Last Consideration
While deleting Facebook might feel like a step in a more private direction, it’s ultimately not going to do much to change the online digital economy that profits by collecting your personal information and selling it to data brokers. Facebook collects arguably the most private information, but plenty of other popular social networking apps like Snapchat and Twitter collect your data too. That’s their entire business model: When you’re not paying for a product, you are the product. Even your internet-service provider is likely collecting your personal information. In fact, through its expansive ad network, Facebook even collects info from people who aren’t even on the platform.
Still, deleting your Facebook account will prevent some of your personal info from being sucked up, and might make you feel better too. And with a few choice downloads, you won’t miss a thing.
More (Or Less) Facebook
- Whether you want to tighten up Facebook experience or nuke it altogether, here’s a complete guide to locking down your privacy settings and deleting your account
- Another reason to ditch the social network: Facebook’s mandatory malware scan is an intrusive mess
- Wondering what Mark Zuckerberg had to say in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal? WIRED sat down with the Facebook CEO for a full interview
Article by Louise Matsakis for Wired.com