I think it’s safe to say that everyone is getting a little bit sick of Facebook’s antics at this point. Right-wing groups have long felt like their ‘truth’ is being censored, while left-wing groups and individuals are reportedly being deleted en masse. It’s becoming a centrist’s wet dream, and very few people are happy about the changes.
That’s without mentioning WhatsApp, which has seen millions of users purging the app from their phones and heading to something a little more secure and privacy-based, like Signal. If you’re trying to escape Zuckerberg’s clutches, you might also want to find a new social network. Maybe it’s time to take a look at MeWe.
What is MeWe?
Originally launching in May 2012 as Sgrouples – a social network, and not, as it sounds, a hookup site for groups and singles – MeWe has evolved into a secure alternative to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. If you’re tired of having your privacy invaded and your newsfeed manipulated, the self-appointed ‘anti-Facebook’ might well be worth taking a look at.
The hook is that it focuses on data privacy, an area where most social networks are becoming more and more intrusive. You shouldn’t expect eerily targeted ads. You’re not going to be worrying about what it’s doing with your data, and it’s not using any kind of facial recognition software. It even has a Privacy Bill of Rights for added assurance you can trust its intentions.
This unique approach to social media means the app has gone from strength to strength. Finally coming out of beta in 2016, zdnet reported that it had grown to around 9 million users in October 2020, and just three months later has ballooned to 15.5 million members. It’s even taken the spot as Hong Kong’s current No1 social app.
It feels a lot like old-school Facebook, although not in a dated way. More of a minimalist way. Actually posting something has all the modern features you’d expect – from GIFs and polls to classic text posts and pictures.
Who is MeWe for?
Given that MeWe isn’t as moderated as Facebook, and that misinformation isn’t censored, it’s unintentionally found itself being used as a home for alt-right and far-right users. Like Parler, people who have been banned from the more moderated sites are starting to gravitate here. This doesn’t mean you’ll only find extreme or fringe opinions, but that kind of content is a lot more prevalent.
Most interests are catered to on MeWe. Interested in food? There are groups for that. Gamer? You’ll find everything from broad video game chat to individual consoles and even franchises like Final Fantasy. There are WWE groups, MMA groups, groups about books. Basically, if you have an interest, it’s probably there. Every group has its own rules to abide by, too.
For the horndogs out there, there’s also plenty of flirting and dating content to peruse through. The limited censorship means that you can also find or post nudes and adult content if you’re into that kind of thing. No straight-up porn, though, so don’t go posting pictures and videos of yourself using the Autoblow A.I.
What unique features does it have?
A tiered membership means there are different levels to what you can do. Anyone on a basic, free profile can still browse the app. You’ll get access to a news feed, and can join any groups you’re interested in. You also get to use MeWe’s custom camera, live voice and video, along with custom stickers.
Bumping up to the premium tier (at $4.99 per month) lets you enjoy unlimited voice and video calling with other users all around the world. You also get 100 GB storage, unlimited themes to customize the look of the app, and unlimited emoji packs to show your feelings. The premium tier also gives access to ‘Secret Chat’, which uses double ratchet encryption so even MeWe employees can’t see your conversations.
How to sign up for MeWe
From there, you need to input your phone number and confirm the code MeWe sends you via text. Like Signal, this is an essential part of the process and what ties your account to you. You don’t have to give your email address at any point. You don’t even have to add your birthday if you prefer to lurk in the shadows.
How to use it
Ever used MySpace? Did you use Facebook circa 2005? Ever played around with Tumblr? Experienced the awful, awful world of MeetMe? Then you know how to use MeWe. Creating a post is ridiculously easy; just hit the pencil icon at the bottom right of the screen, then pick your poison.
Once you’ve put yourself in a few groups, you’ll start seeing posts to interact with on your news feed. To actually find the groups in the first place, head to the Communities tab (the one with three circles arranged in a triangle formation) and start perusing your options. A lot of groups will have a series of questions before you can join them, so you’ll need to apply. Others will just let you join without any kind of gatekeeping.
Unlike Facebook, which allows you to choose from seven emojis to choose how you feel about a post, MeWe has hundreds, and you can purchase more if you really want to. GIF comments are beautifully organized, with categories for everything from Awesome, to Bacon, and other affirmative statements. I’m not even kidding, if nothing else, other apps can really take note of this addition.
Something else I’m really impressed by is that MeWe doesn’t keep a record of your previous profile pictures. Your images are your property to do with as you please, and unless you explicitly share photos to your newsfeed, nothing is retained. You can also create posts that disappear after 24 hours. Kind of like Instagram’s Stories, but on your profile or within the communities you frequent. This is a really cool addition.
Is MeWe worth using?
Honestly, at this point, while I’m pleasantly surprised by the level of privacy, I’m massively bouncing off the experience. Searching for groups to join doesn’t work too well. You can only search for interests with no way to drill down to, for example, any groups local to you. In one of the groups I joined (Unusual Foods), the newsfeed ended up spammed with a dodgy link to a twerk challenge video. Shared by (apparently) Donald Trump.
Look, I’m sure MeWe has its market. The fact that it’s currently so popular means it has a massive opportunity to take a share of Facebook’s gargantuan user base. But in this form, with the way it works now, it’s not great, and I can’t see myself sticking with it long term.