Ah, Facebook. We don’t know how to quit you.
Some pundits tell us blithely: Just delete the app, delete your account! Extricate yourself forever. If only it was that easy.
Many of us who want to quit would do it in a heartbeat if we could replicate the functionality that keeps us coming back. Aside from its massive user base, the other major hook Facebook has for many of us is that it’s an one-stop-shop for a number of different tasks.
One of the key features that keeps people going back to Facebook seems to be photo sharing. Especially with far-flung family and friends, folks with little kids and/or much-loved pets at home really, really want to share those photos with their adoring grandmama. And since grandmama is on Facebook, and all the aunties and uncles are too, photo sharing there is the path of least resistance.
But there are other options for photo sharing that don’t hand over every pixel to the Facebook megamind. These options fall under a few categories, so let’s explore:
Smartphone-native photo sharing apps
Smartphone makers have their own solutions to the problem of photo sharing as well, as both Apple and Google have ways to share photo albums stored on their phones with other people — iOS Photos for Apple and Google Photos for Android.
They work pretty well if you are sharing with other people who are also fellow Apple iOS or Google Android users; however, rather predictably, they get a little clunky if you try to share your photos across platforms. Generally if you’re trying to share a photo album from one smartphone OS to another, the photo recipient will get an email invitation to view the photos in their browser. It works well enough, though it might get a little daunting for some people to manage with a larger volume of photos.
Cloud-based file storage services
Photo sharing exists well outside of Facebook and the smartphone walled garden. There are a lot of choices out there, from photo-specific services like Smugmug or Flickr, to cloud storage services like Dropbox, all of which offer photo sharing from within their services with varying levels of security – the ability to view photos is often invite-only, or in some cases requires creating an account with the service.
They’re usually easy enough to use, though in many cases, you’re limited to how much you can upload before you end up needing to buy a subscription plan, so unless you’re already paying for these services they may not be the best option.
Third-party photo sharing apps
There is a burgeoning category of photo-sharing apps out there, many of which are marketed at new parents who undoubtedly will soon have their phones bursting with snaps to share with family. The majority of these apps tout not only how easy it is to share photos straight from the phone, but also that the photos are ‘private’ to the recipients, not blasted on a social network.
Most of these apps work in a straightforward manner: The person sharing the photos (let’s say a parent) sends invitations to people they want to send the photos to (let’s say grandparents and friends). The photos are sent via the app to the recipients only. As the parent takes photos, they choose the photos to send via the app, and off they go to the recipients.
Some of the popular apps in this category know that they’re often used as a replacement for Facebook photo sharing, so they’ll often go through pains to mention that they have no interest in monetizing your photos or selling your personal information – instead, they make money often through add-on services like photo prints or albums, or charge a small fee to users who might want to remove in-app ads (if they exist).
The benefit of this kind of service is it’s very friendly to those who aren’t super-tech-inclined, as many of these apps work outside of the smartphone app itself, and can work within a web browser or send the photos to recipients by plain old email. For folks looking for something that’s operating system-agnostic and easy to use for both sender and recipient, these third-party apps can be the easiest Facebook alternative.
Yep, this may not be a stylish option but everyone nowadays has email. Setting up a BCC list in your email client doesn’t take much time, and if you only send a few photos every once in a while this can work well. If you tend to do massive photo blasts though, you’re likely to hit your email provider’s file size limit pretty quickly.
Oh yeah, and…
SMS and text messaging apps remain an option for folks who don’t care much about organizing photos in the long-term. The burden is on the recipient to keep track of the photos they want to keep. (Also, if your goal is to stay off of Facebook, using WhatsApp means you’re unfortunately still using Facebook!)
If you don’t want to risk any service or server getting a copy of your family’s photos, keep them off the internet entirely and go properly old-school: You can always print them out yourself and mail them to people. Yes, in the mail! It’s by far the most time-consuming and expensive of all the other options, but it’s also the most private.
One size doesn’t fit all
Personally, I use a mixed approach in sharing my family photos, as I don’t post them on Facebook and many of my family and friends were never on Facebook to begin with. In my case, I use my smartphone’s native app (iPhoto) for sharing photos with family who are also on Apple who tend to want frequent updates, email for family that do not have smartphones or inexpensive data plans, and print photos for once-a-year correspondences to family or friends who just want to generally know how we’re all doing and don’t need a play-by-play. It’s a hybrid approach that works well for my family, but it’s not for everyone.
Anyone who wants to share family photos off Facebook should take a look at how many photos they want to share and who they want to send them to, and decide accordingly what method makes the most sense.