The best Facebook alternatives: Five ways to get your social fix without FB, Instagram or Twitter

If you’re feeling pretty weary – and wary – of Facebook at the moment, we don’t blame you. Zuckerberg’s been in hot water recently, adding data misuse to a slew of damning charges, including the proliferation of fake news on the site and its power to “corrode democracy”. Cripes. 

If you fancy a breath of fresh air, virtually speaking, we’ve rounded up a roster of more interesting social networks for you to join, as and when (and indeed if) you decide to leave Facebook behind. From community vibes to cooking, there’s sure to be something for everyone. 

1. Vero

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What is it?

Vero has received lots of press coverage as “the new Instagram everybody’s talking about”, but it isn’t actually a new social network – it launched back in 2015. It’s available for Android and iOS, and topped the charts for both app stores at the end of February.

Similar to Instagram, Vero lets you post photos, videos and messages on your profile, as well as recommendations for music, films, TV shows and books. As with Facebook, you can chat and share content with friends, but Vero gives you a lot more control. When you connect with someone for the first time, be they close friends, acquaintances, colleagues or followers, you designate which category that person sits in so they can only see specific content you share.

Vero doesn’t use any algorithms, which means that, unlike Facebook or Instagram, your feed is organised chronologically, and isn’t curated or manipulated in any way; instead “you see what has been shared with you when it has been shared with you”. Best of all, Vero has no sponsored adverts and claims that it won’t sell your information to third parties.

What’s the catch?

Because Vero doesn’t use traditional paid-for advertising, it plans to make money by charging users an annual subscription fee, although this isn’t yet in effect and the cost has yet to be confirmed. The first million subscribers have free access to Vero for life, but many have complained of bugs and outages in the service, which is still in beta.

Is it better than Facebook?

It’s certainly great to join a social network that doesn’t target you with ads, harvest your data and curate what you see, but Vero doesn’t bring anything special to the table. Its surge in popularity can be attributed to unhappy Instagram and Snapchat users seeking a new service, as well as its ‘first million for free’ offer and the amount of hype.

2. Nextdoor 

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What is it?

Described as “the private social network for your neighbourhood”, Nextdoor takes Facebook’s local groups feature and spins it off into a standalone website with accompanying Android and iOS apps. It’s been around since 2011 in the US and last year took over the UK community site Streetlife, much to the chagrin of many of the latter’s million users, who disliked the way Nextdoor displays members’ real names and addresses.

Like Streetbank (see below), Nextdoor lets you give away and pick up household items from your neighbours (as well as sell and buy them), but it goes far beyond being an online bulletin board. Users can request and offer services such as childminding, dog walking and house sitting; recommend plumbers, cleaners and other tradespeople; share information about transport problems, shopping discounts and crime concerns; post details of lost and found items; or just converse with people in your area and ask them to stop blocking your driveway!

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Nextdoor has a tidy, Facebook-style interface on both desktop and mobile, which makes it easy to post messages, photos and polls, and search for specific info. When you join the service, you’re either assigned to the relevant neighbourhood for your address, or given the option to create one, and can invite your friends and family – provided they’re local. Each neighbourhood has a ‘lead’ member, who has additional privileges and acts as a group moderator, and you’re encouraged to build your ‘reputation’ through recommendations, invites and other interaction.

What’s the catch?

To sign up with Nextdoor, you need to verify where you live by providing your phone number or address, which you may not feel comfortable with, particularly as your home is then marked on the neighbourhood map (unless you change your privacy settings). The competitive system of leads and reputations is also a little off-putting.

Is it better than Facebook?

Nextdoor is a great way to get to know your neighbours, but as with any social network (or neighbourhood) you may get disagreeable and annoying members. At least here you can see their real names, although this lack of privacy is also one of the site’s weaknesses.

3. Streetbank

streetbank

What is it?

Whether you need a drill to put up some shelves or want to get rid of your old sofa, Streetbank connects you with people in your neighbourhood who can help. Launched in 2010, and since merged with several similar sites, it provides an easy way to lend and borrow things to and from your neighbours, bag yourself useful freebies and offload your own old junk, and is less intrusive than Nextdoor.

Streetbank has more than 29,000 active users in the UK, who were sharing “110,826 things” at the time of writing, across categories including Gardening Equipment, Tools & DIY and Tuition (you can offer services as well as products). Registration is free and you earn points for interacting with other members, to climb your community leaderboard.

What’s the catch?

There’s no guarantee that any Streetbank members will live near you – the site counts neighbours as people living within a one-mile radius, which can be expanded to 10 miles if you live in a rural or miserly area. Also, to deter freeloaders, you’re required to offer something when you sign up, even if only a book or CD.

Is it better than Facebook?

Streetbank’s ‘help thy neighbour’ approach makes a welcome contrast to Facebook’s shower of self regard, and rather than connecting with people online who you’ve met in the real world, there’s the potential to do the opposite.

4. Steemit 

steemit

What is it?

Steemit is more an alternative to Reddit than Facebook, with a similar pared-down design and options to ‘upvote’ and comment on the content shared by other users. The key difference is that Steemit is a blockchain-based social network, which lets you profit from your participation, rewarding you when your posts get upvoted and for helping to “curate” the content by upvoting other people.

Payment is made in the form of a cryptocurrency called Steem (steem.io), which currently ranks 29th for value in the digital currency exchange. Every day, new units of the currency are created by Steemit and distributed to users, who can exchange these units for real money. It’s free to sign up with the site and there are no restrictions on what you post (provided it’s legal), with content organised using keyword tags rather than categories. Steemit also has a spin-off site called DTube (d.tube) that lets you share and earn Steem from videos.

What’s the catch?

Steemit’s anything-goes policy makes its content a very mixed bag, with some posts that are clearly adverts. We’re also baffled by how the payment system actually works, especially because there are three different kinds of Steemit currency units, one of which can’t be cashed in for two years!

Is it better than Facebook?

We like the idea of getting paid to post on social media, but Steemit needs better organisation and more rigorous vetting to be truly popular – there are already users selling ‘vote packages’ to those who want cheat the system and rake in the Steem.

5. Cookpad

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What is it?

Cookpad is a tasty mix of Pinterest and BBC Food, giving foodies a place to share recipes, tips and photos. It’s based in Japan, but has offices around the world, and currently boasts more two million recipes (around 5,000 of which are from the UK) and 50 million users.

You can search the site and mobile app by ingredient to find a suitable dish, bookmark and print recipes with a single click; and post your own ideas for others to try. The social part comes from users posting their experiences with each others’ recipes, including Cooksnaps – photographic evidence. You can also track how many times your recipes have been liked, bookmarked, printed and more. Cookpad is completely free to use with instructions that are reliably clear and easy to follow, and a friendly, helpful community.

What’s the catch?

Cookpad’s search results are a bit of a jumble, with no filters to narrow them down by cooking time, dietary requirements or most popular or highly rated. Searching for ‘tomatoes’, for example, finds more than 32,000 recipes to sift through.

Is it better than Facebook?

Cookpad works in tandem with Facebook – you can sign in through the social network and find your friends to see what they’re cooking – so it’s more of a culinary complement than an alternative, and a great place to graze when you’re hungry.

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