Facebook has been having a really tough time for a while. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last year, users have become even more conscious about privacy, and the backlash against the company has culminated in movements like #DeleteFacbook. Separately, Facebook has increasingly been losing favour among the young, and diminishing numbers of teenagers report that they are using the platform.
Where do they go then? As it turns out, Instagram. But Facebook’s reach is long, and it actually also owns Instagram. If you want to get away from Zuckerberg and everything Facebook, what do you do? I deleted Facebook and Instagram for a week to find out.
Let’s be real here. While it sounds like a good idea to get oﬀ social media entirely, stop looking at curated feeds, and focus on what really matters, do you really want to? As of June 2019, Facebook had 2.38 billion users, while Instagram last reported a billion users worldwide in June 2018. Both platforms are immensely popular, and they’ve wormed their way into our daily routine so eﬀectively that it’s become almost second nature to just pop into Instagram and look at some cute cat pictures whenever I have a spare minute.
That said, having excised Zuckerberg from my life for a bit, I had to find something else to look at when I stood in line for my food. To be clear, I don’t go on Facebook much these days anymore, but Instagram has been pretty great at keeping me entertained. The Stories feature, unabashedly cribbed from Snapchat, provides a low commitment way to share stuﬀ with your friends.
My feed is also mostly dominated by tech brands I follow, wildlife photographers, and a bunch of artists whose work I enjoy, so I’m a pretty happy camper every time I scroll through my feed.
The mindless act of just thumbing through a bunch of aesthetically pleasing shots is so mundane as to feel slightly calming, but the good news (or bad) is that there’s no shortage of distractions to fill the empty minutes. Sure, I found myself staring aimlessly into space during certain moments when I would normally have launched Instagram, but I soon learnt to fill the gaps with news articles or Reddit.
I’d like to say that my weeklong hiatus from two of the biggest social media platforms taught me to be more present and do more meaningful things. No, this is not that story. I simply found other equally frivolous things to occupy my time with.
Did I miss them? Of course. There are few things better than screenshotting someone’s Instagram post or story and then sending it to your friends so you can bitch about them together. I also did wonder what the folks in the peripheries of my social circle were up to. Can I live without them though? Definitely.
After a brief flirtation with Snapchat and Twitter, I decided they were ultimately not for me. Snapchat lacks a proper feed like Instagram, and it was nowhere as intuitive to use and ultimately felt more puerile somehow. On the other hand, while Twitter is great for getting status updates on your favourite game, it’s mostly filled with people retweeting things they supposedly relate to and going “mood”.
At the end of the day, I’d much rather look at photos of people holidaying in Bali.
WELL, THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
The most obvious Instagram replacement is Snapchat, from which it practically lifted its Stories feature. However, Snapchat seems to be far more popular among the younger crowd, and if you’re pushing 30 or more, I don’t think you’ll find many friends on the platform. It also has the most inane filters – okay, some are pretty fun, like the recent gender swap filter – and doesn’t seem to be good for much more than sending disappearing messages to your friends. Oh, and did I mention how unintuitive the interface is?
Twitter is a diverse platform that is good for both catching up with breaking news stories and staying updated on your friends’ latest adventures. However, you’re limited to just 280 characters for status updates, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on how you see it.
Discord technically isn’t a social media platform in the manner of Facebook or Instagram, but it’s so useful that it may as well be one, for gamers at least. Its main Activity page gives you a helpful overview of who has been playing what, complete with updates on your favourite games. You can also hang out with your friends in custom voice and text channels, see what game they’re playing right now or what song they’re listening to on Spotify, and even stream games to a private audience of up to 10 friends.