Privacy is a lonely bastion. Anyone know how to meet friends online these days?
At some point we recognized the signs of desperation. My wife and I had been running to the window like puppies for a glimpse of any unusual traffic. We caught ourselves bingeing on news articles, as if saturating ourselves with reporting could somehow make us relevant to a world that saw less and less of us. We even resorted to calling my mother. After listening to 90 uninterrupted minutes of narration regarding her most recent routine doctor’s visit, we broke down. We resolved to end the isolation that was slowly killing us. Then the pandemic hit.
Our biggest stumbling block is figuring out how can we make friends online using only privacy-respecting platforms and software? We would like to see some friendly faces in real time without being simultaneously, you know, mined. Could anyone in the know share suggestions?
Edit: I'm grateful people are considering this. Thank you! I find it helps to ask people what their ideal solution would be, no matter how far-fetched. So, in response to that: My dream platform/venue/project would meld aspects of Lunchclub with The Human Library. I have stories to tell. I would love to video chat with fully-clothed individuals drawn from all over the world, chosen based on their stories and ambitions. It would work the way a good host does. You know, "Greta once had the job of getting sweat stains out of Bruce Springsteen's guitar strap. You two should swap cleaning stories, since you work at that drycleaner's, right, Butchie? Is it true it's a front for the mob? Oh, excuse me, I have to disinfect the pizza guy. I'll leave you to it." Maybe I should flesh this out more.
Discord is my social platform of choice currently. I know a lot of folks don't like it for a variety of reasons. Personally, I feel like they're fairly non-threatening as far as social platforms go. They don't make money off of ads (there are no ads to make money off of), it's investor backed plus whatever they make off of their nitro subscriptions (basically user donations that come with a few perks).
One thing that bugs security minded folks is the game hook. Personally, this doesn't bother me. They don't seem to do much of anything with the information (from what I can tell anyways), and the hook itself is particularly useful when it comes to streaming.
You can read through their ToS yourself and probably get a decent enough idea of whether or not the trade-offs are worth it for you.
I should probably mention the positives as well. I probably got kinda lucky in my own experience with exploring discord servers. The first public server I joined, I immediately fell in love with. I'm still there after two years, and have made some great connections with people who I now consider good friends. I haven't had that kind of online experience since back in the days of MOOs and MUDs.
Streaming/Voice Chat in discord can be an absolute blast. I'm set up to be able to do sculpting in blender, put on some tunes in spotify, and talk on the mic with friends and strangers alike while I'm streaming the sculpt with a small webcam window down in the corner (using OBS and a GoXLR to make that all possible). I can play jackbox with my irl friends I haven't seen since lockdown started.
The community aspect of discord is what I really dig. Some servers just feel like home. Other servers can be an absolute clusterfuck. That's why I think I got lucky with finding such a good server right off the bat. Sometimes you just have to dig around for a while to find one that's the right level of activity, the right flavor of memes, political slant, or whatever other factors come into play. There are tons of interest-based servers that can be quite good, but I personally recommend looking at ones with fewer than 1,000 users. Just finding 2 or 3 good servers can fulfill quite a bit of interaction. Other people prefer the anonymity of getting lost in the noise of 10k+ servers, but to me that's just too much noise and grotesque attention seeking.
Can't think of too much more to say about it. It's worth checking out if the security of the platform falls in the acceptability range for you. As far as quality of interaction goes, I've found it to be quite satisfying with the right people, and those people almost always end up becoming good friends to have around for me.
Discord occupies a spot on my naughty list, but I can't recall how many underlines I meant to apply to their entry. I guess I will re-read and research, but at first glance things look awful:
I happily use discord, with the expectation that I have no privacy, and could be yeeted off the platform on an (unlikely) corporate whim. The reality is just that it's where the majority of online communities are now, and if not there, then on slack, which I have no more faith in as a platform.
Given OPs concerns about privacy and data mining, they may also want to check out https://discord.com/privacy.
Of particular note:
Yeah, I'm in a similar boat. Here's my suggestion: Lunchclub. It sets you up with a few networking calls every week based on when you're free, what you're looking for, and the interests you give it. I always pick "I want to meet interesting people" as my objective. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive; the calls have kept me sane for the past several months.
Edit: I should mention Lunchclub isn't necessarily for finding friends, although that may be possible. It's more for professional contacts and networking. That's all I need right now, though, so it works for me.
First report from Lunchclub:
Once I signed up and gained access to profiles, the mood changed. Judging by the presentations, everyone seems to be approaching it for business networking--and going hard. Like, "I'm Senior Lead +Finslash UX Underminer at Ellekorn Eco-National looking to explode buzzword setpoints in IoT transport. I helped leverage $4.7B among nimble brands. Is success the dessert you laid forks for, or will you eat the future with your hands? Let's connect and dominate."
And I'm like, "I like to talk about books."
Fair enough, some people are like that. Other profiles are much tamer. For example, here's mine.
I will consider it, though.
Yeah, that's a good point. I guess I won't be deleting my account until they update that to comply with CCPA.
OK, yes. Matrix. I wandered into... the network(?) via a link noting there was a Tildes channel. I got very lost quickly and it seemed like I could find tech-centric chat or tumbleweeds when I perused the list of channels. I'll have to look for a guide for finding channels, or locating some sort of faster on-ramp to video chatting. If you're getting the impression I have no idea what I'm doing in this landscape (Matrix), you'd be right.
I consider myself a fan of matrix (the protocol) as well as its clients/apps...but I don't consider it ideal for discovery from zero (at least not yet). However, if you happen to eventually learn of groups around your interest, then matrix clients/apps help with communications/chat.
Join a tilde/pubnix? The communities I’ve encountered have been very positive and open-minded. That’s where I now spend 90% of my time online.
Some people have recommended matrix rooms on topics of interest to you, but this hasn’t really been a meaningful way yo connect with people in my experience. Chats are a pretty low commitment form of communication, and very impulsive. But the fact that they are real-time provides a certain intimacy that posting on forums might be missing sometimes. I think rather than joining rooms based on topic, you’re better off joining chats that are watering holes for some sort of informal community (like a tilde for example). The atmosphere is a lot different in my opinion.
Also, even though it might be sparse in comparison to IRC, there are good communities on XMPP if you go looking for them :) The relative “quiet” in those kinds of places makes it more suitable for meaningful conversations in my opinion.
You could ask some of us if we would be interested in joining you for a realtime activity of some sort, like playing some sort of game. Video games work, but you can also try real-world party games like pictionary or chess. There's a bunch of other activities you can do that will depend on your hobbies. Why don't you check out the Timasomo threads and ask if there is somewhere you can help them?
I had assumed those were really self-directed and kind of solitary projects. I'll have to read through the posts more carefully now to see how to help. That's a good idea. With the number of writing projects getting under way, I had considered creating a post about starting a regular Tildes writers' group, unless one already exists.
(shameless plug) My Timasomo project is actually related to this. I want to design online tools which help create and manage good communities. I'm in the research/writing phase right now, and would appreciate any feedback on what I've already written or advice for what I need to consider, especially from people who are looking for good communities to join!
Though it might be tomorrow or the next day, and though the quality of my feedback may be a little pedestrian, I will be sure to take a look.
Sorry if I’m being too obvious, but how about increasing your online contact with the friends you already got?