Sunday, September 21, 2014

So, You Want to Quit Facebook?

In all the time I've been on Facebook, I've heard people complaining about it and either threatening to quit or announcing that they were quitting. In fact, a lot of people have either reduced their participation in the social networking site or have even left entirely.

If you're thinking about quitting, but you still want to be part of a social networking site, you've got a Big Question looming in front of you: Where will you go?

For some people, leaving Facebook simply means increasing their participation on Twitter. It's a very popular site with lots of members. You can share pictures and videos, but all of your posts are limited to 140 characters, unless you use a third party site like Twitlonger.

But, let's suppose that you want something like Facebook that isn't Facebook. What then?

I'd say that you're shit out of luck. Really.

In years past, sites like Myspace dominated the Internet for places to meet-up with your friends and relatives. But, Myspace had some serious drawbacks and when Facebook came around, people abandoned Myspace like a sinking ship, which is essentially what it was until Justin Timberlake bought it. Even with Mr Timberlake's involvement, I honestly can't say if anyone I know is even a member anymore. Sure, they may have opened an account out of curiosity, but that's a far cry from being an active daily user. I have an account there, but I haven't been active in a long time. It's mostly geared towards music and performance art, so it's not really a good substitute for Facebook.

When Google announced the launch of Google+, people seemed to be scrambling to sign-up. Hearts were beating with excitement, wondering if the Megalodon of the Internet (i.e. Google) could build a better social networking site than Mark Zuckerberg. Given the big G's past failures (e.g. Google Buzz and Orkut spring to mind) people with memories weren't anticipating that things would be different. Still, it seemed at least possible that Google could have learned from past mistakes and done a better job this time around.

In fairness, Google+ is better than FB in some ways, not so good in others. While I don't see much in the way of people sharing pictures of their cats or that morning's breakfast, I have to admit that there is a healthy bit of discussion when people comment on news articles. Google+ does seem to be the grownups' version of Facebook. However, most of the people I know on Facebook either don't have a G+ account or have one but don't use it. So, don't count on your high school classmates finding you there.

China and Russia have their own social networking sites and they seem to have a lot of participation. China, which blocks FB entirely, has WeChat, TenCent Weibo and Sina Weibo, while Russia has VKontakte (also known simply as VK) and Odnoklassniki, however Facebook has made serious inroads there.

I found it rather difficult to sign-up for the Chinese services, since I don't live in China and can't read Mandarin. VK is very easy to join, but Odnoklassniki seems to only allow people in Russia or former Soviet countries to sign-up.

VK looks just like Facebook and I suspect that to be deliberate on the part of the site's owners. It functions well and you could virtually clone your Facebook page in VK and barely notice a difference. However, it is a Russian site, so unless you can read the language or have Google Translate in your browser, you'll spend a lot of time online with no one to talk to. Russia's social networking scene is becoming reminiscent of the Soviet Era, as both VK and Odnoklassniki are owned by the same people and those people have strong ties to the Putin administration.

So, nothing's perfect in an imperfect world, right?

Other social networking sites I looked at are popular only in one or two non-English-speaking countries and really didn't have much to offer. Still other sites looked like they're geared toward finding romantic partners and charge money for full membership.

As I said, you're shit out of luck.

For all its obvious flaws and the seemingly rapturous joy with which Facebook decides at random opportunities to be a bunch of dicks to their members, FB is the most popular social network in the fucking world right now. That is just a fact.

In all fairness, unless you like seeing pictures of your friends' pets and reading their daily or even hourly posts about how bad a day they're having, I'd say that you should just make yourself at home on Twitter. Some days, all I do is check my Twitter feed and totally ignore Facebook.

But, let's say that you want a Facebook substitute and you want all the bells & whistles. Let's make this easier and say you go to VK and copy all the stuff from your FB profile and put it on your VK profile. Okay, you're all set.

The big hurdle - and it is a BIG one - is to get your friends, relatives and/or coworkers to go with you, even to just set-up an account there.

Chances are that they won't. At all.

Even though people have pissed and moaned about Facebook over the years, they are still the #1 game in town, far out in front of even the Chinese networks with their (literally) captive audiences. For the handful of people who quit FB every year, those people are like individual grains of sand on a very big beach and Zuckerberg et al don't worry about them!

But, if you really, really, really want to quit Facebook, go ahead and join VKontakte. Invite all your friends and whatever. Find people on Twitter about quitting Facebook and invite them too. Give it your best shot, buddy. You may like VK better. Who knows?

If you want, at least, one friend on VK, you can friend me. I'll be like what's-his-name on Myspace for you.

Duane Browning
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