in meta, random rambling

Twitter, social media, network effects, and me

Back at the end of October, when Elon Musk announced that he was really actually going to buy Twitter, I did what a lot of other computer nerds did. I spun up a cloud VM, bought a domain name, installed a Mastodon-compatible “Fediverse” server (Pleroma), and started exploring the wide world of federated social media.

I did that partly because of some annoyance with Musk, but largely because a lot of my professional and hobbyist communities were already moving in that direction. Peer pressure, it works! Or I suppose we call it “the network effect” in this context.

After three months of actively participating in that network, I can say that from my perspective:

  • I find myself having more conversations there than on Twitter, rather than just posting into the void
  • I’m much less likely to continually doomscroll there, and can put it down more easily. I’m more likely to go a day or three without looking at it.
  • The general feel is much more personal, much less self-promotional, and feels a lot like the older Web
  • Decentralization does not solve all woes, and in particular I suspect it makes content moderation and inclusion harder rather than easier
  • The community, at least in my corner of the Fediverse, is a lot narrower and harder to break into than Twitter

Would I recommend Mastodon or the wider Fediverse to another person? Well — maybe not. It depends on what they’re looking for.

While I would often tell people to just jump on Twitter and play around until they found their community, I would probably only recommend downloading a Mastodon client if I knew there was a critical mass of people talking about their interests there.

Programmers? Absolutely. RPG players? Eh, probably, but a bit sparser. Curlers? Not so much, at least not yet.

Instead, for a lot of folks I’m more likely to point them at particular Discords, Slacks, or other smaller forums. Heck, there are a few forums like that where I spend more time than on Mastodon. (The “tech community” conversations at RLS are much better than I ever found on Twitter.)

These might not scratch the same itch as microblogging for many, and the communities in those forums are generally a lot smaller. But to be honest, I think that’s probably fine. No platform has to be all things to all people, and it’s the people that matter. In particular, it’s finding your people that matters — whatever that means for you.

Twitter was great in that it felt like “everyone” was there. I do really miss that kind of “one stop shop” for talking about anything and everything.

But at this point, at least for me, that ship has sailed. While I have extremely unfavorable opinions about how Musk is managing Twitter, and while many people have valid reasons to stay on that platform (especially Black users)… At this point, my Internet communities have all moved on. Most of the folks I want to talk to are no longer on Twitter.

I’ll continue to hold the @ajdecon handle on Twitter, and may post the occasional blog links etc there. But I probably won’t read much there, and I’m unlikely to be an active poster again any time soon.

But you can continue to find me here, from time to time on Mastodon, and on various interest-based Slacks and Discords. And if I don’t see your DMs, there’s still always email!