As of the time of this writing, many people (primarily conservatives) are looking to leave Facebook and move their account over to Parler, the “free speech social network”. I’ve seen quite a few friends “leave” Facebook for Parler, but then they keep posting new stuff on Facebook. Interpret that how you will.
Parler may or may not turn out to be a worthwhile site in the long run, but I think for most people it’s the wrong decision. There are two main reasons why:
1. “no censorship”
Parler billed itself as having no censorship, but they had to change that pretty quickly. There are legal issues to avoid (nudity, etc) but also other things they’ve had to fight back against (photos of fecal matter, death threats, etc) — things worth banning, but starting down the road to increased censorship.
Even worse, moderators that block content aren’t just “the man” blocking your speech — it’s a truly awful job to have, as shown in this story from The Verge last year. Parler may have a different angle on how they censor certain political posts, but censorship is a necessary thing that they’ll need to learn how to handle.
Longer term, money will be a problem. Parler has some rough monetization plans, but it gets tricky very quickly. It costs a typical social media site roughly $10-17 per user, per year to cover their costs. If Parler were to grow to say 27 million users (just 1% the size of Facebook) their costs would be somewhere around $350 million dollars per year. They could find ways to cover that with ads, in theory, but it’d almost certainly come at the cost of your personal data. Perhaps a fair trade-off, but really no different than Facebook and others.
So what to do?
The above aside, this post isn’t about Parler. Some people are upset with how Facebook treats their content, and issues like that will come up on Parler or any other third-party site you choose to use because it’s not your decision. You’re on their playground, so it’s their rules. The solution? Build your own playground.
It takes some work, but tools these days make it quite easy and affordable.
First, set up your own blog. Ideally you’d set up hosting and run things yourself, but that can be tricky when you’re starting out. An easier solution is to just start using WordPress.com. For $4/mo, you can set up your site and have your own address and be off and running. You’re still on their server and potentially subject to their whims, but you have three big things going for you:
- No algorithm. What you post gets shown on your page immediately and isn’t filtered.
- Backups. You can quickly back up all of your content anytime you want and put it elsewhere.
- Your domain. Even if somehow you got kicked off there, you still have your address and all of your content and you can set up shop elsewhere. If you move from Facebook to Parler (or anywhere else), your content doesn’t come with you. I’ve moved this site around a few times in the past 16 years, and every post has come with me.
Second, use an RSS reader to follow others. An RSS reader is essentially just a way to subscribe to any site you want (typically blogs and news sites) and get everything they post. No algorithms to hide things, no weird sorting, just a feed of the stuff you ask for.
For that, you can use a site like Feedly. It works on any device, it’s simple, and the free plan is sufficient for most (with the premium plan just costing $6/mo).
You can still use social media
All of this isn’t to say you should give up social media. Most of your friends are there, and if you just leave it all and start a blog, most of them won’t see it. Use your platforms, whether it’s Facebook or Parler or something else, to help people see your new stuff. There’s a good chance that’s how you found this post.
If Facebook hides the link to your new post because they don’t like it, that’s a shame but it doesn’t matter — your content still exists on your site and is 100% available to anyone that wants to see it.
It’s easy, but not simple
The steps I described above aren’t difficult, but if you’re new to this stuff you’ll be investing a few hours into setting up a WordPress account, finding a domain name, choosing a theme, etc, and then getting Feedly in place, finding things to follow and going down that road.
By contrast, setting up a new account on Parler takes just a minute or two.
If you’re upset with Facebook for hiding things that you don’t like to be hidden, you need to decide if you really want to fight for your voice, or if you want to just take the easy route and go to Parler instead. It’s your choice.
If you need help getting started, I’ve set up a course on starting your blog from the ground up, intended as a “technical course for non-technical people”. Check it out.