It's amazing how much of our lives can exist on social media. If you are actively using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Evernote, or Photobucket (among others) you might be surprised to learn how many photos you have that are floating around out there. Photos come from many places - our regular cameras, smart phone cameras, scanners, or even our friends. Wouldn't it be nice if you could back up and manage all of those photos in one convenient place? Of course it would.
Socialfolders.me (yes, that's a website address) has actually been around since late 2011, but the service has gotten considerably better in the last couple of years. The service downloads an application to your Macintosh or Windows PC (sorry Linux users, no version yet for you) and after creating a simple account, you can start using it. Whatever social media applications you give it access to it will start synchronizing your photos (or other files) and download them onto your computer. For example, you could connect both your Facebook and Twitter accounts and have all of the pictures you have been uploading over the years to come back to you like magic.
Once installed, SocialFolders creates a shortcut on your computer that looks a lot like a regular storage device (USB stick or hard drive) and you simply click on it to access your files. SocialFolders also takes the liberty of organizing your files for you. It creates sub-folders for each of the social networks you authorize it to use (currently it supports Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Evernote, Photobucket, Box, Google Drive, Picassa, SmugMug, SoundCloud, and YouTube) and then (if applicable) it creates further sub-folders for albums. Although you would probably primarily use it for photos, it does support video and sound files you may have uploaded to these services as well.
Much like Apple's iCloud Photo Sharing, once you have SocialFolders set up and working it will automatically synchronize to each of the services. If you upload a new photo on Facebook, it will download automatically to your computer. You can even download photo albums from your friends on certain networks (Facebook and Twitter for example). SocialFolders uses the privacy settings of the respective social networks to determine who you can (and can't) download pictures from. It's a perfect way to download photos of your friends to use in photo books or photo mugs around this time of year, as the holidays are just around the corner.
You might be wondering why you would want to download all of your social media photos in the first place, but there are many good reasons why. Perhaps you have lost the originals through some unfortunate accident (remember, backup!) or you might want to erase the photos from your social media account but make a copy beforehand. Either way, SocialFolders makes it as easy as using something like Dropbox (it even has the same "feel" to it).
I've been very impressed with SocialFolders. There are various options to control which files you sync with, the product works reasonably quickly (limited only by your internet connection) and it will even send you a weekly recap of your social activity. Since the service does not actually retain a copy of your files (they are transmitted from the social network to your computer), it's also quite safe to use.
As far as cost goes, using it is absolutely free with up to the first 2,000 pictures or files. If you want to increase the limit you have a few options. First of all, if you get a friend to sign you up (or you sign up a friend) you will get an extra 1,000 files. You can also remove all limits by purchasing the premium version for $9.99 a year (or $1.99 a month). If you are interested in trying it out, by signing up at this link you will get your first additional 1,000 files for free (so 3,000). Happy SocialFoldering!
Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm. You can reach him via-email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.