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Seven free social Android apps to avoid Facebook fatigue

by Kristen Nicole

Every sitcom will eventually jump the shark, and if social networks had an equivalent, Facebook would be the pop icon on the verge of compromising its mainstream appeal. The tech savvy user is always on the hunt for the next big thing, and the arrival of our grandparents’ generation on the world’s most popular social network has signaled the inevitable exodus from Facebook. If you’ve grown weary of Facebook’s bloated social graph and undying attempts to force ads disguised as friendships, these Android apps just may renew your faith in social media. Whether you’re looking for the next fad or seeking refuge from living out loud, there’s fresh options from newbies and old classics alike.

Instagram (Free)

Instagram’s part of the Facebook family, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy haven. Our Facebook newsfeeds have become endless streams of TMI posts and random ads. Instagram is still a rising star, growing more popular by the day. The photo-sharing and editing app has broken several records since expanding to Android, proving a popular platform for spreading media. Photos tagged for this year’s presidential election season, Hurricane Sandy and Thanksgiving holiday have surged by the millions, vying with Facebook to become the biggest image gallery on the web.

Flipboard (Free)

Facebook’s done a few things to improve the look of its basic layout, but the blog-style newsfeeds can get monotonous nonetheless. Put a professional spin on your personal newsfeed with the Flipboard app, another iOS exclusive that recently made its way to Android. With a dynamic magazine layout, Flipboard turns your Facebook feed into a thing of beauty. Dilute the Facebook drab by adding other social and RSS feeds to your Flipboard.

Highlight (Free)

Facebook undoubtedly revolutionized the way we communicate, establishing itself as a foundation for countless social media sites. The next chapter in this story was enabled by the widespread use of smartphones, which add a layer of geo-awareness to social networking. With Highlight you can see which friends are in the vicinity, and trace your friendships in an instant. The ambient app was a hit at SXSW, where the hype machine deemed Highlight as the poster child for this new breed of social-mobile awareness. Though Highlight’s averted the spotlight since the spring festival, its recent Android debut has marked a second coming for the app. New features aim to further contextualize your Highlight experience, adding more information to your profiles and new sharing capabilities.

Google+ (Free)

It’s not that you mind being Facebook friends with mom, grandpa and your boss. But you probably never thought an online network would become so accessible that your superiors could one day pull up your Spring Break 2008 album on a whim. Sure, you could reorganize your entire social graph on Facebook into Lists, each with their own privacy settings. But many have found it easier to start fresh on Google+, designed from the ground up with your digital identity crisis in mind. So even if Google+ does become as popular as Facebook it won’t feel so crowded, granting you more control over friends’ and family members’ access to your content.

Pinterest (Free)

I recently came across an e-card that read: “I escape to Pinterest to avoid all the drama and bad grammar on Facebook.” If this snarky greeting tickled your fancy, you’ve surely experienced the allure of Pinterest. You can’t turn away from the crowd-sourced photo stream, yielding to the urge to repin everything in sight. If you miss the joy of mindless media-sharing that was once Facebook, make the move to Pinterest.

Fast for Facebook (Beta) (Free)

Remember when Facebook was a place to share news, photos and reconnect with friends you thought you’d never see after high school? Those were the simple days of Facebook, before integrated apps clogged up the user experience, always running in the background requesting your data and sending notifications. Get back to basics with Fast for Facebook, an app that strips down your Facebook experience by connecting only when you need to. Still in beta, Fast for Facebook aims to speed up your mobile activity in particular, circumventing the sluggishness you may experience with Facebook’s own Android app. Because we all know a laggy network can cause a form of fatigue all its own.

Skype (Free)

You can’t download Skype to a Chromebook netbook, but you can log onto Facebook and chat through Skype’s integrated channel. Since becoming partners, Facebook and Skype have had the mutual benefit of shared users, which gives you an extremely easy way to connect with friends on an even more personal level -- voice and video chats. Why scroll through Facebook updates when you can have a face-to-face conversation, right now? Facebook has become the ultimate way to stay connected to society while keeping it at arm’s length, but you can escape the paradox by rekindling one of our oldest forms of communication: speech.

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