Why I gave up tweeting on Twitter and started tooting on Mastodon instead.

A little while back I did a think-piece/rant about Twitter possibly being a toxic environment. It got some good feedback and gained some traction (was more than surprised to see it quoted back to me by a third party who’d seen it linked on another site !!) but in the scheme of things it was a rant, and once written I didn’t really give it much more thought.

Earlier this week several things annoyed me on Twitter. In themselves no one thing was that drastic, but combined with everything else going on at the moment I decided that enough was enough and to cut my losses and run.

Normally, what I’ve done in the past is simply delete my twitter account and go dark for a while. This rarely works as my curiosity over my “friends” on Twitter gets the better of me and I start reading, then I’ll create a surrogate account to post a response, then I’m back up to my neck in the mire of tweets once again.

This time I used an app to delete all my tweets. I say “all” for some reason it’s still listing 17 tweets but for the life of me I cannot see them! However, pretty much anything I’ve written over the last few months has been wiped. I created myself a Mastodon account under the same name on one of the mastodon instances (@copernicusCF@mathstodon.xyz) and posted my introduction over there.

I can’t say it’s quite got the same feel as Twitter. Twitter would be a vast convention hall with swarms of people all shouting and passing messages among each other. This convention hall would have groups of people standing around in clumps talking among themselves with people milling around between the groups. Mastodon is … well… more like a local pub with some people in the back room. There’s another pub next door and there’s people in there too but we’re not part of that group. However thanks to both pubs having the back doors open we can shout across the fence and get responses back that way 😉

In essence I’ve gone from 250 followers to 2 and from 7000+ tweets to about 7 toots. And you know what? It’s great. I am as guilty as everyone else, but I had gathered followers just for the sake of gathering followers. It’s seen as a measure of importance, someone with 500,000 followers is seen to be more important and influential than someone with just 500. It’s all about accruing social capital. The more you have the better the person you are seen to be. Vacuous posts and duckface selfies get more likes and exposure than any meaningful tweet. The restrictive 140 character limit means any serious discussion is spread out over many threaded tweets. Anything you post is at threat of some random troll jumping on you from a great height and every idea or theory has an equally loud anti-idea group chomping at the bit just itching to tear strips off you.

So why Mastrodon? Why not just give up? I suppose I could just concentrate on the blog but twitter gave me “instant gratification” I could respond to someone and get nigh on instantaneous feedback. However, everything you post on Twitter is used by Twitter to make money for Twitter. Your data is scrutinised, packaged, sold to advertisers who direct targeted ad campaigns directly into your feed. There’s no moderation and no moderators. Hate groups and science deniers post their hateful vitriol. Mastodon is moderated, each instance is a separate node run by a group of moderators. My instance Mathstodon.xyz is predominantly aimed at mathematicians like me. I know when I look at my local moderated (federated) feed it’s going to be predominantly stuff I want to see. Mastodon also allows me to prefix my toots (the pachyderm version of tweets) with content warnings so I don’t need to see things I don’t want to. And of course, let’s not forget that lovely 500 character limit. Still classified as microblogging but not so restrictive as a tweet. No more will I need 2 concat-N-8 and abbrev-8 my Tweets to fit in chr limit !! 500 characters gives me just that little extra space to put my thoughts down concisely and succinctly without resorting to the dilemma of “Do I misspell this word or leave out the punctuation to make it fit?”

Mastodon has a long way to go yet. It’s hard to find people on there but that’s a good thing. It’s got features missing in Twitter but unfortunately it’s missing some in return. It’s not perfect but it’s a good start.

I’ll still be reading Twitter, but for the most part I’ll be conducting my social media communication over Mastodon. Hope to see you over there.

Shiny Aspie People (Apologies to REM!)

Following a twitter conversation late last week I was introduced to two phrases I’d not currently heard before “Aspie Supremacists” and “Shiny Aspies”. I had to google both these terms to fully understand their meaning. From what I’ve read, Aspie supremacists are autistic people who hate autism, autistic people who revel in the fact that they, themselves, do not appear autistic and can pass with little effort for someone who’s Neurotypical.  They like to use the terms “high functioning” and how Aspergers isn’t a form of Autism but a completely separate neurotype. They will even go as far as describing Autism as a disability and by nature of their perceived lack of disability they are better than “everyday” autistic people. Some even go as far as claiming their particular brand of neurotype makes them not only superior to “lowly autists” but also most neurotypicals too. They see their Aspergers as a gift, a superior form of thinking unclouded by emotions, purely logical and focused.

There is a distinct overlap between the more extreme Aspie supremacists and so-called “shiny aspies”. For the most part (from what I’ve read at least) Shiny aspies admit they are on the autistic spectrum. They too often refer to themselves as “high functioning” and take pride in their achievements such as being able to talk to people, holding down a job, dating and getting married and all the other trappings associated with successful neurotypical lifestyles.

They often go out of their way to appear “normal” and “pass” in their day-to-day life. When they do let their aspie side show it’s in controlled bursts of geekery, presented to their neurotypical peers in a way that would seem non-threatening. They’ll impart their extensive knowledge of Star Trek or Wax lyrical about number theory, sing Lehrer’s elements song or quote Pi to 250 decimal places.

They tend to look down on less fortunate autistics and consider themselves above them and superior to them. When undergoing diagnosis they sigh in relief at a diagnosis of Aspergers but would protest and appeal against a diagnosis of Autism. Autists are disabled, they are not ergo they are not autistic. They may be on the spectrum but they themselves are so far removed from the poor disabled low functioning autists that they’re practically a different species.

And this is the point where this blog post takes a slightly unexpected and dark turn.

I myself am, what most people would call, a shiny aspie.

WAIT!! No… Don’t jump to conclusions. I DO NOT consider myself separate from my autistic cousins; I DO NOT consider myself superior in any manner to other autistic people. I realise that I am autistic by definition and by diagnosis. We’re all in this boat together and no one of us is any better than the rest.

However…

I do pass very well. I hold conversations and host dinner parties. I will hold a person’s gaze when talking to them and ensure to return eye contact where appropriate. I do not talk with a monotone robotic voice, I joke, I laugh. I revel in my work, a high paid job for a very large multinational company. I’m married and my wife and I own our house in the suburbs. I’m intelligent. I’ve a masters degree in mathematics and I was once a fully paid up member of Mensa. And yes, I too sing Lehrer’s elements song and can quote pi to 250 decimal places. Look at me and you do not see someone with autism, look at me and you see a successful middle-aged middle-class man with odd geeky quirks. I’m oddly naïve at times and sometimes don’t always get what people are asking me. I can get confused easily but this is usually attributed to my “mad scientist / bumbling professor” demeanor. I refuse to show my aspie side in public. I deny who I am with a perpetual mask of normality.

I don’t feel autistic. Maybe because I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 46. By then my mask and my quirks had fully integrated into who I was. Only via twitter and this blog have I started to truly explore my autistic side. I realise I’ve more in common with my autistic brethren than I first thought.

I’m thankful that I pass so easily. I have it easy. I’ve got “neurotypical privilege” coming out of my ears. As I get older and more tired from wearing this mask, more and more I’ll inadvertently let it slip. My shine is becoming tarnished with time, I can no longer classify myself as a shiny aspie.

I’m Pete and I’m autistic.