An ongoing critique of Twitter peope about people on Mastodon is that on Mastodon, one only talks about Mastodon. Totally predictably, throughout the last few days, this increasingly was the case and is probably normal for a period of heavy growth. To be fair, with recent events even Twitter became much more self aware and meta.
As I didn’t want to add to the constant stream of “Mastodon this, Twitter that” on either of these platforms, here’s a (hopefully) short blog post that sums up my thoughts, because, guess what, I have many of them.
Much has been said about the fact that “Mastodon is and cannot be Twitter”. And of course, that is, indeed, a fact. There are so many organisational, technical and economical differences that comparing the Fediverse to Twitter is a bit like comparing the early AOL or Compuserve to the internet.
Mitter is not Twastodon
This is not the post where I go and try to refute all the criticisms from people on Twitter about why Mastondon won’t work as a Twitter replacement (for them) - I often don’t agree with their conclusions - interestingly sometimes from people whose thinking I deeply admire. I am not yet sure what to make of that and am fully prepared to be proven wrong in the mid/ long term, but the discussion is so complex and people have so many different perspectives that I find it a bit impenetrable for me right now.
But maybe it’s the entirely wrong question to ask. A lot of what I see on Mastodon is people trying to not recreate what they had on Twitter recently but more what Twitter was maybe 8-10 years ago. And with that I don’t mean the constant downtimes due to overloaded instances, but rather having a cozy, safe space to converse with friends, colleagues and people simply sharing your interests. On many instances where I follow people, having that safe space, but really also having that coziness, is valued very highly and prioritised over other values such as allowing free speech at all cost. Instances that focus on right wing or nazi agendas are blocked. People are encouraged to use Content Warnings (A very early on Mastodon feature that is still discussion quite controversially from what I can gather) liberally, even for things that feel mundane as a Twitter user such as talking about politics. Mastodon people want to have the option to simply not read the stuff that made Twitter what Twitter is in 2022. As I said in my earlier post, a lot of us consciously turned our Twitter feeds into that endless feed of dispair, because it gave us a better understanding of how the world works. (Your mileage may vary and people also quite obviously managed to turn their feeds into a constant flow of misinformation and thus created their own realities. It is not always super easy to distinguish between those two versions.)
Let’s be different
Mid/ long term it will hopefully end up being a more balanced version of that, where it is easy, when times feel especially hard, to focus on the cozyness, on the safeness, but also be able to listen to underprivileged folks, let them tell their stories (and vent their frustrations about their struggle) and have that widening of our own perspectives which made Twitter valueable for me after the cozyness had left. This does need work and support from us privileged folks to create and maintain safe spaces for everyone, not just us.
For me myself it means a couple of things. I noticed on myself that my twitter writing became, with exceptions, very much focused on “hitting the target”. It is pointed, tries to be witty and funny, but also often deeply sarcastic. I did get an adrenaline kick every time I hit a nerve and got a ton of likes and retweets and that is (probably for the better) not something that is easily translatable to the fediverse. That probably doesn’t stop me from being sarcastic from time to time, or trying and failing to be funny, as that is actually a big part (especially the failing part) of my offline personality as well. A. Pun. Must. Be. Made.
But I think I will refocus my writing on Mastodon to be more about my personal journey, about the things that happen in my day to day life. Basically answering the question over and over again the early Twitter interface asked you.
I will probably shift my political commentary towards more longer form writing on my blog (or keep it on Twitter for as long as it keeps on existing and functioning) and only tease it (with appropriate CW’s) on my Mastodon account.
This will also mean that I will probably try to curate the list of people I follow here on Mastodon in a similar way to optimise for a more healthy diet of all the things I mentioned before, prioritising people who liberally use content warnings, but also trying to get the list to be as diverse as possible, because nobody needs another white male privileged circle jerk.
Are we, like, winning?
All of this will need work. But there is a huge upside. If we all together manage to get this working in the long run, we, for probably the first time in a long time, to wrestle something away from the corporate internets. The fediverse is largely, in the best possible way, anarchic. It is only commercial in the sense that someone needs to pay someone for the servers. There are no economical incentives past that. Nobody (as far as I know) runs a Mastodon server to make a profit.
That does feel like we’re starting to finally pull back into the right direction. Maybe it’s actually the start of something. And that is what makes me really, really excited about all of that and I know I am not alone.
Friends, present and future, let’s go.