Almost everyone agrees that large swaths of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Reddit are terrible, each in their own way. But these monolithic social media platforms are so ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that you don’t have to use them. Which isn’t to say that you have to swear off of social media forever: There are less odious alternatives that will still let you participate in online life.
These smaller, scrappier social media platforms aim to either correct the most egregious mistakes their big brothers and sisters make, or to provide niche experiences that the larger social media companies can’t/won’t. Below are alternatives to five of the most popular social media platforms. None of them are perfect, but they’re at least different, and probably less terrible. Plus, if any of them really catch on, you can be first to complain about how they used to be so much better.
Ditch Facebook for MeWe: Freedom from advertising and tracking
There are tons of reasons to join the crowds fleeing Facebook—its terrifying targeted advertising policies, rampant misinformation, people use it to plan genocides, your cousin Gary—and only one reason to stay: The sheer number of users. Everyone is on Facebook, and maybe that’s the problem.
My suggested Facebook alternative, MeWe, offers a lot of features that will be familiar to Facebook-users—groups, private chats, tagging, content permissions—and boasts a Facebook-like look and feel, but WeMe is less evil. It’s completely advertising free and doesn’t track or sell its users’ data, staying afloat by offering for-pay premium services. On the downside: There are reportedly 16 million users of WeMe, which might sound like a lot, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s nearly 3 billion users.
Switch from Twitter to WT.Social: News with less misinformation and hysteria
I’ve had a Twitter account since 2010, but I can’t anymore. I just want links to interesting news stories and the occasional cute cat pic, but Twitter seems intent on serving up maddening, toxic nonsense. The site is awash in hysteria, misinformation, manipulation, and bitterness. If you’re just sick of it like I am, check out WT.Social.
Launched in 2019 by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, WT.social is completely ad-free and dedicated to combating misinformation by allowing users to flag and edit any post, like a certain famous online encyclopedia. There are no advertisers to appease, since the service is paid for through voluntary donations, and WT.social says its mission is to “foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line.”
Switch from Instagram to 500px: Better photos, less psychological trauma
Instagram has long been known to be devastating to the mental health of young people. The photo-sharing platform has been associated with depression, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other issues. It’s run by the same people who run Facebook, who seem bent on making social media experiences as addictive as possible. If you’re a photographer and you don’t want to support any of that just to show off your pics, you should switch to 500px.
The platform’s philosophy is built around quality pictures, so you can view and post pics in high resolution. The algorithm that determines which photographs are widely shared is based less on your number of followers and more on “likes” from people who don’t follow you. There are even opportunities to monetize your work.
While 500px is geared toward photographers, if you just like looking at pretty pictures, it might be the service for you too. Unlike Instagram’s mix of pictures, ads, and videos, 500px’s feeds feature only photographs, and it feeds aren’t based on Zuckerberg-style algorithms, so you’ll see only what you want to see.
Switch from TikTok to, well, something
TikTok is the nearly universal choice of young people eager to watch and share shorter videos. TikTok is so huge at the moment, it has no realistic challengers (other than old-school YouTube), and none on the horizon—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any alternatives. Here are a few video sharing apps that offer things TikTok does not.
- Triller. This app makes the already easy process of posting videos online even easier. Triller uses AI to edit videos in time to pre-selected music.
- Clapper. If you’re worried that your important political views are being censored by TikTok, this moderation-light platform will let you spout off whatever dumb nonsense you’d like.
- Clash. Created by one of the co-founders of Vine, Clash focuses on short form videos, and isn’t designed as a challenger to TikTok as much as a sidecar: It allows creators with existing followings to interact with and monetize their audience in exciting new ways. But that also means users can interact with their faves more easily, too.
Switch from Reddit to Discourse: Less dumbness, more smartness
It’s hard to believe now, but for a couple years after Reddit launched in 2005, it was a discussion forum for smart people. Unfortunately, popularity and an aversion to curation and moderation lead to a dumbing down of content and a proliferation of hateful and boring users. For a smaller, more focused discussion-based community, try Discourse. This open-source forum platform’s stated goal is to “raise the standard of civilized discourse on the internet through seeding it with better discussion software.” In practice, that means trusted, frequent users have a say in how communities are managed; it’s easy to flag bad content; and there exists robust and user-customizable curation. Plus, fewer people use it, so it hasn’t been ruined…yet.