I have soured quite a bit on the current leaders in social media. When Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (owned by Facebook) aren’t making user-hostile decisions like algorithmic timelines and invasive tracking, they do everything possible to avoid their responsibility to curb hate speech in the name of Wall Street and profits.
I don’t want to support these platforms anymore, so I’m working on moving away from them. Fortunately, there are more positive places to hang out online that are built with more ethical foundations and respect for us regular folks. Some are even community-built and run, and they already have millions of users.
When it comes to Instagram, there is a good variety of alternatives that ditch the psychological manipulation tactics and are generally more respectful of our privacy and how we want to share with each other. Here are some of my recommendations.
The original breakout photo sharing service, Flickr is having a renaissance. Yahoo/Verizon sold it to Smugmug, which is revitalizing Flickr into a freemium, standalone service.
I’m @chartier on Flickr.
VSCO is a freemium photo sharing community with an emphasis on editing tools and minimalism. The interface can take a little getting used to. But one thing I like is that it basically has a lightbox, a private workspace where you can upload your photos to edit before sharing.
The free version offers plenty of photo filters, while the paid version ($20 per year) grants access to over 130 more filter presets, video editing tools, and access to weekly photo challenges and contests.
I’m @chartier on VSCO.
PixelFed is a unique new photo platform in that it is decentralized and has no single company running the servers (one could argue that this operates more akin to the original vision for the internet). Instead, it’s a collection of photo sharing communities that can interact with each other. You or I could start a PixelFed instance, open it to the public, or just keep it private for friends.
Think of it kind of like email—maybe you use Gmail, I use Outlook, and your friend uses their own web host. But all our email addresses can talk to each other.
PixelFed is a new member of a growing suite of “Federated,” decentralized services like Mastodon, Pleroma, and others. I really like what this community is building and the ethos behind it. Here is a good blog post about decentralization and why it matters.
One could argue that Tumblr is more of a blogging service than a photo sharing community. But it can be anything you want, and photos are huge on Tumblr.
I’m @chartier on Tumblr.
Tumblr has plenty of free and paid photo-centric themes available that could make your account/site look entirely like a photo gallery. The option to add your own domain name (which is, bizarrely, still free) also seems unique amongst the Instagram alternatives I picked. This means you can plug into the Tumblr community but make public link for your account look like a standalone website.
Imgur started as a kind of quick pasteboard for sharing photos online. But it’s evolved into a full-blown sharing service and, given it’s been tied to Reddit for so long, it has a huge userbase. It now has a good collection of photo sharing options including albums, privacy features, hashtags, comments, and more.
PicsArt is a photo sharing community that started with an emphasis on stylized art like double exposures, adding objects, and combining photos. But it’s grown into a pretty large community with space for everyone.
Update: I removed this recommendation since I later found out they cater to white supremacists, alt-rights, and other toxicity.
It isn’t easy to move a social circle to a new platform. But as there seems to be no end to the problems, scandals, lax policies, and downright malicious intent of the current dominant social platforms, I think it’s time to start looking for more ethical and healthier alternatives.