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.