My Favorite Replacements for Facebook: Podcasts, Feed readers, and other tools

It’s my eleventh month without Facebook, and there are still awesome things on the internet. Everything in bold is a replacement for something Facebook once did for me.

First, an honorable mention for Podcasts, which Facebook never got involved with, but I have to mention it because it gets to the heart of one of the great things Facebook does for us: collecting things from the internet.

So, Podcasts are basically on-demand radio shows. When you want to listen to a podcast, you could just visit each website you like and see what’s new, but that’s a lot of work, so instead you could have a podcast app do that for you. My favorite app is Podcast Republic but I originally used iTunes, and both work well on computers and smartphones. I bring this up for one reason:

You can do the EXACT same thing for articles with an RSS Feed Reader. Imagine if you put a magical leprechaun on your phone or computer and said “these are my favorite websites, and I don’t want you to bug me but whenever I randomly feel like checking in with you I want you to give me all the new articles from only those websites, and also can you let me know when Sean starts posting again?”

This is one of the best things on the internet. My preferred RSS Reader is Feedly, but I’ve heard good things about Inoreader. Unlike Facebook, the feed readers and podcast apps don’t seem to care how often you use them, and their survival doesn’t depend on getting users to look at them 20 times a day. They make money mainly by offering premium features most of us don’t need, and if your feed reader starts to feel like Facebook you can just switch apps. Discord, a program that sort of replaces Facebook groups for me, makes money this way too, as well as WordPress, the program I’m using to write for my own enjoyment.

Seriously if all my friends had their own websites and we subscribed to each other on feed readers or email, we would have something a thousand times better than social media. I took a break from social media in October and it was supposed to be for 3 months, but I felt so good that I never got back on, except to collect names, birthdays, and phone numbers.

Since I’m not on any social media, if people want to know what is going on in my life, or if I want to know what’s happening in theirs, we connect by phone, or whenever we run into each other again, and I get to tell them what’s happening, and it’s actually news! If I decide I need to inform a large group of people of the recent changes in my life, maybe I’ll do like one of those Christmas mailers. Seriously I might. Still not sure if I will, but if I do, that mailer is going to be a gem because there won’t be anything on there you already saw on Facebook. All the high quality stuff and you didn’t have to scroll for it.

As for remembering birthdays? I’m getting better at it, and it requires a written calendar, open on my desk, to the month it is. Still not perfect and I apologize if I missed yours, and pretty often I have to wish a happy birthday a day before or after because of being busy. I’m sure there’s an app for it somewhere if I get desperate. But the point is: people are happier when I remember their birthday now. Want me to see pictures of your dog? You’ll have to email me or show me when we meet up.

And for filling time standing in line at the grocery store? There is Feedly, but there’s also, just kind of standing there and zoning out, or maybe even talking to a stranger. That last one is a rarity. There was like one good Corona week for talking to strangers at the store. But every week has been good in terms of podcasts, Netflix, a meditation app, and Xbox Live. Those are my favorite things on the internet.