It seems many have been clamoring for an alternative to the ubiquitous Facebook monster lately.
It's not just the gay/drag community getting up in arms about the Facebook "real name" policy, or even the start-up social network Ello that became alternative du jour this week, receiving praise and rage in the process.
Those are just recent flare-ups in a fire that's been smoldering for some time.
The real malaise comes from a sense of unease social media seems to create. It's providing bits of personal information, in the form of "likes," that are used to sell advertisements. It's visiting a website that can foster both good and evil, and feeling like evil wins out way too often. It's all the moments of social disruption it spawns--the FOMO, the distraction, the arguments, the jealousy, the anxiety.
Jumping to an alternative social network won't solve all of those problems though. No well-meaning manifesto claiming to make it all better will ever, actually, make it all better. Ello might very well be a better alternative, but it can also very easily become yet another digital distraction.
Social media encourages people to sit behind a computer and watch the world go by. At first it makes you feel connected because it makes it easy to keep in touch with friends, both near and far. But it also makes it way too easy to be passive in your social life. In that laziness, in watching the world go by without you, you end up feeling more alone.
I can't tell you which social network is the best at making you feel more connected and less of a commodity. That's up to you.
But I can tell you how to break from the malaise that will eventually come from every social network: go engage in the real world.
Don't sit at your computer and bemoan the fact that everyone is having fun but you. Go make a plan. Go to dinner with someone. Go join a group. Go out to a public event.
Don't sit on an app and complain that the information you meant to share with friends is being turned into an ad. Go out and share that information directly with them in the form of an actual conversation.
The strength of your friendships is up to you, whether any of them follow you on a social network or not. So don't blame Facebook for your malaise. Be proactive, get out there, and change it.
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