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Eyeing Mastodon somewhat warily

Like many, I’m torn between moving to Mastodon for principled reasons and the need to maintain existing communities.

Look, I really want to like Mastodon. But it’s the very decentralized nature of it that also makes me also want to back away. Twitter has a tremendous advantage in that it’s one centralized platform, not a large number of small, independent communities that force one to choose which they might join. Much like Twitter, Mastodon is a microblogging service, but to me it’s if Twitter and Discord had some kind of disappointing offspring. That’s not what I wanted from Twitter, so Mastodon doesn’t seem like a great substitute.

I realize that many are moving from Twitter as a form of protest. The phrase I’ve heard from many is that Twitter has become a “hellscape.” I think that, to a large extent, that’s probably true. However, I will note that, in my own filter bubble, I haven’t really seen the negative effects of the Musk-induced meltdown..probably because I primarily follow professionally-related accounts. I am seeing fewer tweets, but not more overall garbage. I fully acknowledge that’s not everyone’s experience. But, it is mine, and so it doesn’t contribute much to a desire to abandon ship.

Another viewpoint I hadn’t considered until recently was that of disenfranchised communities and how Twitter has served as a lifeline for them. Everyone else leaving Twitter doesn’t help those groups that have settled there for critical reasons.

I understand that Mastodon is in the uncomfortable position of not being quite ready for the flood of new users, and wasn’t originally created with “Hey, let’s entirely replace Twitter!” as its foundational concept. To blame Mastodon for features I don’t especially appreciate isn’t fair to Mastodon, and I don’t expect Mastodon to suddenly morph into a Twitter clone. But, like many, I’m torn between moving to Mastodon for principled reasons and the need to maintain existing communities.

What do you think?

There are 2 comments

  1. I haven’t left (yet) – However, I have stopped using Twitter and eventually posted the following on my profile.

    “This account is currently not monitored.

    Follow Me On Mastodon:
    @CisopSixpence@mastodon.online”

    I personally have nothing against Elon Musk, he is certainly entitled to his opinion, as we all are. If he wants to buy the company for more than it was worth then gut it of most of it’s talented employees, and make it so it’s policies and the people it welcomes back on to the platform cause advertisers to have second thoughts on how this affects their branding image, then he can. It’s his company. However, I don’t like to encourage such behavior and for now have stopped all activity on Twitter. I have kept my account open as I don’t like to burn bridges, especially if there were a chance the stability of Twitter’s future better, and the values it is associated with were to come back into the norm, but I have ceased the use of my Twitter account.

    I did set up a Mastodon account, more so as a life raft back around the end of October last year, not expecting to need to rely on it as a Twitter replacement. While there are Mastodon instances (servers) set up for certain communities, in my experience I’ve not felt restricted by the instance my account is on. Your Mastodon account is much like email, you may get your email account from Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or Microsoft, but we are all able to communicate across the internet with email accounts from different providers. If the instance you originally signed up for doesn’t fit you well, you can always move your account to another instance, just like changing your email account, but maybe easier.

    I’ve been using Mastodon for almost 3 months now, and the community as a whole (not just the instance I have an account on) is overall friendly and helpful. I like the feed of information I get on Mastodon better. Maybe because I am more in control of the content I see rather than an algorithm. I can follow people, and I can also follow #HashTags, so if I’m looking for a topic to follow rather than specific people, I can follow things like #80sMusic, #Vegetarian, #Humanist, and #Recycling. It looks a lot like Tweet Deck, for those who have used that. Although there are some things that are different about Mastodon when compared to Twitter, after I accepted the differences, I found that I enjoy Mastodon much more than Twitter.

  2. I dumped Twitter the day Musk allowed Trump back on. I already had a Mastodon account since 2017 that was largely disused. So time to use it… Having been active for a few weeks now, I see the drawbacks. Mainly, they are the lack of “the algorithm” and the lack of “re-toots”. Without the algorithm, you have to manually curate who/what you follow and they don’t really have a great search feature. Boosting a toot is the closest they have to a re-tweet. Unfortunately you can’t comment on a boost. If you want to comment, you MUST comment on the original toot which is problematic if you are boosting because you have a disagreement with the original toot.

    I have had a really tough time building the list of people to follow. Initially I used one of the many tools to find my old Twitter friends and that gave me a base to build on. Sadly, it was a fraction of who I followed. Then I took the advice of looking at the people followed by people I follow. That brought me a few more people to follow. However, what is lacking in all of this is the organic nature of being “introduced” to people and topics that Twitter does. As a result my feed is lackluster. Many of the people that made Twitter worth it didn’t join Mastodon. The people who did that I followed, post things that are of interest but not necessarily as exciting. And the interaction, so far, is poor.

    Regarding interaction, there was a lot of back and forth banter across subjects and people on Twitter. On Mastodon, I have posted a few things and gotten no responses, boosts or likes. I don’t think it is because I suck. I think it is because my posts just don’t get the visibility they did automatically on Twitter. I am not following enough people, so… Not much interaction. But I have yet to find people I have a lot in common with. There seems to be an abundance of Linux/anime/manga/fantasy/fanfic folks as well as a much larger LGBTQ+ presence on mastadon.social. While I have no issue with those topics, they aren’t why I am on social media. I am happy to just live and let live and provide support/allyship. But I am looking for electronic dance music/DJs, who also love Linux and technology (and of course, libraries) and that seems to be just a bit harder to find.

    I don’t know if the problem is the server I signed up with, or just Mastodon’s lack of a good search. I have tried searching for several hashtags and pretty much everything comes up empty. But if I look at the local or global feeds, it takes less than five seconds to see some hentai or futa. I had tried Mastodon once before on another server:Fosstodon. I assumed that since most of the Linux FOSS users I knew were very liberal, that server would be a good place to start. Instead I was deluged with Pepe memes, super hard right fascism, and COVID deniers. At the time I still didn’t get the federated nature of Mastodon and just thought it was a distributed laid balancing approach to social media, meaning all servers had the same communities/content and simply mirrored each other. So I thought Mastodon was just another alt right haven.

    So right now, I am personally seeing Mastodon as Twitter-like with massive limitations that will prevent widespread adoption. That isn’t all bad because since it is so complicated, it will filter out the, ahem… “highly objectionable people” because they won’t know how to join, why, or how it works. Heck, I had trouble with the concept originally, and I am at least one notch above highly objectionable. That natural intellectual filter has been good in the past, in my experience. The Cleveland Freenet was my first experience with that kind of filter. Slashdot was the next one in its very early days.

    All that being said, there is also the fact that Mastodon can be more than social media and a LOT of people don’t get that. The goal of the developer is to reclaim the freedom that the Internet originally had free of commercial interference. Whether or not he can succeed is a completely different story. Either way, the social media utilisation of Mastodon is an interesting exercise at minimum.

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