Facebook is a business. People try to use it for sharing with friends and for political organizing.

I spend a lot of time on facebook, and I notice many of my friends spend time there too.

Mostly I use facebook to share political content: either content that I’ve found interesting or content that I myself created (articles, animations, witticisms, or images).

I also use facebook for fun: cat photos, silly memes, etc.

When one posts something on facebook, one never knows how many people will view the post. Facebook prompts you to pay money to promote the content.

In this podcast, Sam Harris mentions that he sometimes pays facebook money to promote his posts — in cases where he really wants his followers to know about the content.

It’s obvious that facebook is a business whose purpose is to earn money. Nor can we expect them to be entirely philanthropic.

But given the widespread reliance on facebook for education and sharing of information, it behooves us to be aware of the platform’s limitations and to work towards open source alternatives that will better server our needs.

One way to work around facebook’s limitations is to proactively visit the pages of people and groups that we are interested in. Another way is to mention people by name in our posts if we want those people to notice our content. (That feature could be abused and has been abused by some of my friends.)

alternativeTo lists some open source alternatives to facebook.

The issues involved with creating a social network are not at all straightforward, as the issue of fake news demonstrates. People want to use facebook as a soapbox to promote their own ideas. Some of the content is nutty or misinformed. The technical difficulties and the cost are significant too.

But I strongly feel that we need a wikipedia-like open source alternative to facebook that makes the algorithms and choices visible and customizable.

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