Maybe we should SMS again.

A very bizarre thing happened the other day, and, no, we’re not talking about someone donating a billion dollars to me, but that would be pretty sweet. The incident began on Facebook, actually.

First of all, I know the name changed. Still though, I want to have future generations somehow stumble onto this bit of text and look in the ancient tomes of Wikipedia to learn what Facebook is. See? I’m helping research skills thrive even after I’m long gone!

The incident started with a ding. It was at about 9:00 PM my time and I was just about to settle down to listen to a podcast audio book when my Facebook messenger dinged.

Even though I’ve deleted all other social media and mainly use the Fediverse, and, SMS, still, I keep a Facebook around because I have people on it that refuse to give me their cell numbers. Plus, their numbers change a lot more than mine. I have one VOIP number that hooks into multiple devices and phones, so it’s actually surprisingly easy to get a hold of me, if they know where to look.

That leads us to the source of the ding. It was a Facebook message. Curious, I opened up the Facebook messenger app, probably for the first time this year, and stared at the message. It was a friend. Long time friend too. The kind that changes his cell number more times than I blink. I’m starting to think I should have less shady friends, but the message was breathless with relief. Yes, I can tell tone through text messages. That’s how well I know my friends.

“OH MY GOD!” he typed, “I’m so glad I found you!”

Found me?” I replied,

“Yeah, found you! I couldn’t believe it dawg. I looked you up on Facebook a billion times, but the app just wasn’t showing you, at all. Neither in the message screen or the actual timeline or anything.”

“Well, you know I have a website now, so that’s where I post. I’m a Blogger now. I stay on my website.”

“But I was so worried,” he heaved, “you weren’t on Facebook.”

“Yeah, about that. I’m just not on Facebook anymore. But do you have my number? Did you try Google, because my website is actually the first thing that comes up when looking for me. I’m okay, actually. I’m fine. Really. My website will eventually lead you to where I post on social media, but Let’s text.”

“Do you have WhatsApp?” he asked, as if I didn’t just type a wall of text. “I mean, I was so worried about you! I didn’t know how to get a hold of you! I didn’t know how to find you!”

“So…” I tried again, “want to exchange cell numbers so we can text and maybe keep up with each other better?”

“Do you got WhatsApp?” he asked, again.

“No.” I finally replied.

“But how am I going to contact you then?”

Maybe it’s because of my disability, or maybe it’s my newfound disdain for closed systems, but I just didn’t want to keep up with another app on my phone. Can you send video over SMS? Not huge video, but it works. Can you send audio messages over SMS? It’s not going to be great quality, but it works. I did have a WhatsApp account but at the moment, I was like, I actually really want to just have one contact list for everything. No separate apps, no separate chat app where all my gay friends are at, I can just put a, gay, before their first name so I know who’s who since I can’t see pictures.

The hassle of keeping a WhatsApp going seemed wildly cumbersome to me. And, moreover, I knew I was going to lose all those contacts the longer WhatsApp becomes more money hungry and profit seeking. If all my contacts were on, well, a sim card or in some VOIP provider, I could at least back them up and transfer them to a new device.

I’ve also suggested email, since I like writing huge lengthy letters to people, but he didn’t want to do that, either. He wanted a quick way to get a hold of me. I said emails can be as long or short as you want to have them so they can just say, yo, brother! Text me at 555-555

The above incident highlights a bigger problem, though. He couldn’t think of any other way to contact me when, ironically, I’m on many open platforms. Want to know what I’m up to? Follow one of my many RSS feeds. Don’t have my number anymore? Send me an email on any client. Want to find me on social media? The Fediverse is pretty open. You don’t even need an account to see what I’m doing or what I’m posting. If you want to message me on social media, you do need an account, but there’s always email. You don’t need to have an account in the Fediverse to contact me.

Moreover, I know many techies will sigh and heave at this next thing, but as old as SMS is, and security hazard, it still largely works and it’s quite literally the only short messaging service that works no matter what device someone has or what platform they are using. It works. It’s not cheap for international texting, but it works without installing a secondary app. People don’t need to download an app just to talk to me. Is it secure? No. Is it robust? Well, it’s definitely showing it’s age, but it still works.

I’ve been trying to get my Facebook friends to message me via SMS and they ask me if I can use Facebook messenger. I don’t understand it. Is there some visual thing I’m just not understanding? Are Facebook messenger chats easier to read? I know SMS isn’t pretty, but it’s the most open way to get a short message to me, if you have my phone number.

Maybe we should all start using SMS again like it’s 1990. I know it has problems, but I just really don’t want to build up chats and conversations and contacts on a platform only to lose them when the platform shuts down.

I think it’s even stranger that people actively can’t figure out how to get ahold of me unless I’m on a closed platform. I wonder if this is what closed platforms want. To be so dependent on them our whole lives are on their servers. Our existence is on their servers. Even if they shut down? Well, they won’t care about the memories they’re erasing because they got you, they’ve used you, used your data, and now you’re a captive on their sinking ship.

I’ve started begging my online friends to add my VOIP number to their phone. When they send me a message on Facebook, I open up my IM application, because my VOIP provider works on any device on any platform and send them an SMS back. They always ask to move to Facebook Messenger, but I tell them the truth. I dropped my Facebook.

While it’s technically not a lie, still, there will come a day when Facebook truly vanishes off the internet. I know they hate me for texting them on their phones now, but I strongly think my friends are going to breathe a sigh of relief when they can get a hold of me after Facebook vanishes from the web.

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