Sunday, 11 May 2014

Keeping in Touch

I know I can be a rather peculiar person, but in case you require further proof you came to the right place: it is hear that I will state I find phone calls a rather intrusive pain. Sure, I can see the frequent need for them, and sure, I enjoy having a nice chat with a nice friend. But in the more general sense of the word, being required to stop everything I am doing for the benefit of someone else, dedicating my complete attention to someone far away just because they happened to feel like grabbing it at that very moment, is generally not an experience I look forward to. Not in my current and permanent state of having no time for anything.
I mention my attitude to phone calls because the subject of keeping in touch with friends, particularly via Facebook, was raised recently on this blog. Specifically, I asked for a Facebook like social tool I can use to keep in touch with friends without having my privacy sold to the highest bidder. The question I want to discuss today is what shape should that tool have, based on my assumption that Facebook's current shape isn't that great.

Why am I saying that the functionality offered by Facebook isn't that great? There are numerous reasons, but they all narrow down to the way people tend to present themselves on Facebook. There is very little negativity on Facebook; everything is perfect on Facebook; there is tons of nihilism on Facebook; and overall, there is this tendency to market a perfect version of yourself.
The reasons for this behaviour are obvious: we all censor ourselves to one extent or another when we address people, and when one addresses a large and varied group such as the bunch of Facebook friends one has accumulated over the years then one has to be on the safe side. Therefore, one has to go with the flow and share stuff that, generally speaking, I couldn't care much for.
I solved my personal censorship problem through this blog. Here, in this forum, I am way past the point of thinking twice before offending people or worrying whether something I post online will hurt my chances of future employment. I pretty much narrowed things down to avoiding private matters; everything else is open game.
Some of the problems with Facebook can be solved by being able to control exactly who is on the receiving side of one's posts. That, however, stands in contrast to Facebook's money making model, so we should not expect to see such abilities receiving much attention any time soon. However, such functionality exists in other services.

Which brings me to my preferred way of keeping in touch.
Basically, I think there is no one best tool for keeping in touch with one's friends. It's rather a collection of tools, from phone calls through emails to some sort of a messaging service. But the one type of service I consider the most fitting for most purposes is the type of tool that allows sending texts and photos to selected contacts. Such a service combines several advantages: the messages stay between you and their specific audience; receiving such a message does not require one's immediate attention; however, the messages are "pushed" upon their recipient, who - unlike emails - receives a brief un-ignorable notification.
We all know services that perform exactly what I'm talking about here. Most notably, we all heard of Whatsapp. Alas, Whatsapp was recently gobbled by Facebook, and although they promised since not to make significant changes to their privacy policies their existing policies contains enough loopholes for me to not trust them. Besides, the recent case of Moves, an app that was purchased by Facebook, promised not to change its privacy policies but then did it anyway.
For now, my preferred service is definitely not Whatsapp (I deleted my account shortly after the Facebook acquisition), but rather Telegram. Sure, Telegram is not free from security concerns, but they certainly have a good start. I'll put it this way, they seem better than anything else I can use on my iPhone with any hope of having friends using, too.
Well, it's either that or I buy myself a Raspberry Pi to run my own Diaspora.

Image rights: Telegram

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