May 9, 2019

Minds and MeWe as Facebook Alternatives

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There are plenty of good reasons not to want to use Facebook, but I am sure I don't have to tell you that. I have no difficulty understanding why those who do not regard it as a necessary evil would avoid it. I certainly wouldn't use it if I didn't find it helpful for driving traffic to Atheist Revolution.

But what about people who are genuinely interested in the social side of social media and who are looking for a platform they can trust not to sell their data that will allow them to connect with others? I suspect at least some people are hungry for a platform that offers many of the benefits of Facebook without so many of the costs. Where should they look?

With the demise of Google+, we are left with one fewer alternative to Facebook. Fortunately, there are some alternative platforms that have been gaining ground as growing numbers of people become dissatisfied enough with Facebook to leave. Some of these alternatives are ad-free, and most are far more invested in user privacy and free speech than Facebook seems to be. I think we are still a long way off from any of the alternatives gaining enough traction to become a viable replacement, but there are some options worth exploring for those who have lost all trust in Facebook.

Minds

I have written about Minds before. They provide an alternative to Facebook that tends to be a bit more diverse in terms of the viewpoints one can expect to encounter. There is content there some will undoubtedly find objectionable, and I would not recommend Minds to liberals hoping to remain in an ideological bubble. It tends to skew in more conservative and libertarian directions. Right-wing conspiracy theories abound, and I am often surprised by how popular these seem to be among some self-described conservative skeptics. It is almost as if their "skepticism" is leading them to uncritically accept theories every bit as bizarre as those they reject as skeptics. One does not have to look too hard to find people on Minds who still take "pizzagate" seriously.

Still, Minds can be a very interesting place worth exploring. There is a strong freethought vibe, and the place seems to attract lots of talented artists, nonconformists, and other interesting people. If I had to pick one thing I like about it, other than their commitment to free speech, it would be that I see far more people posting meaningful and sometimes even challenging content and far fewer photos of their meals or cats. The users are very different from what I see on Facebook, and that is part of the appeal.

There are many atheists on Minds, but there are no more than a handful of active atheist groups. They can be a good place to start, but I have found it more interesting to subscribe to users who are sharing interesting content without worrying too much about whether they are atheists, skeptics, humanists, etc. In fact, I haven't found most of the groups on Minds to be enjoyable compared to individual user channels.

MeWe

I am less familiar with MeWe because I just started using it and am still figuring it out. Whereas Minds promotes itself mostly as a pro free speech platform, MeWe seems to focus on some of the other complaints we have about Facebook (e.g., the ads, the practice of selling user information to the highest bidder, the many violations of user privacy). Although I found the MeWe interface a bit confusing at first, I am beginning to get more comfortable with it.

In some ways, MeWe is more similar to Facebook than it is to Minds. When one first joins Minds, one will have a newsfeed full of content because much of it is promoted ("boosted"), meaning that users are paying to push it to your newsfeed. In contrast, WeMe is going to look very empty until one ads contacts (like friends on Facebook) or joins groups.

By adding contacts and/or joining groups, MeWe will begin to resemble Facebook more closely in the sense that whatever one's contacts or groups are sharing will show up in one's feed. One important difference, however, is that MeWe does not use the various algorithms Facebook relies on to manipulate what you see for the benefit of its advertisers. From what I can tell so far, groups tend to be more useful than they are in Minds. Once a user joins a group, they can interact with content others share, share content themselves, and even participate in a group chat.

Although there are atheists and atheist groups on MeWe, they seem to be few in number. This is probably because the overall number of users is still quite small. Groups are probably the best place to start. Joining a few of them will expose you to relevant content, and this does not even require you to add any contacts.