Mastodon and me
Posted 31st August 2023
Just like App.net over a decade ago, Mastodon appeared on the social media scene a few years back as a challenger to Twitter, but it never really took off.
In the years that followed, Twitter went from could-definitely-be-improved-upon to pretty toxic. In order to keep my stress levels down and still get value from the platform, I set up countless mute filters Tweetbot, my Twitter client/app of choice.
But at the end of 2022, after months of threatening to do so, Elon Musk bought Twitter and, for a whole host of reasons, I couldn’t stomach using the service anymore.
Lots of other people I followed on Twitter felt the same and Mastodon was a comfortable like-for-like switch. Cobwebs were blown off the accounts lots of us had set up back in 2016, new accounts were opened, and some people even spun up their own Mastodon server (more about that later)!
It didn’t take long for Tapbots, the team behind my beloved Tweetbot, to release a Mastodon client, Ivory, making it all feel very familiar.
Mastodon is great, but it took me a while to get my head around a few things.
Instead of being owned by one company or person, Mastodon is made up of lots of different ‘Instances’; it’s not one social network, it’s a network of them! And if you know a bit about servers you can even run your own!
Accounts on different Instances can interact with each other pretty much freely, so it feels like one service, even though it’s a federation of lots and lots (the Fediverse!).
Rules and guidelines
Each Instance sets and enforces their own content guidelines, meaning you can choose the Instance that you feel most aligned to and safe with. And the good news is that if, like Twitter, your Instance changes its guidelines for the worse, you can move your account to another Instance easily.
Usernames in the Fediverse look a bit more like email addresses, where you list the Instance you’re on as well as your username, for example mine’s @email@example.com.
It took me a bit of time to get comfortable with the fact that I wouldn’t be the only @tempertemper on Mastodon: I’m the only @tempertemper on mastodon.social but there can be a @tempertemper on every other Instance.
Feels like the right approach
Without wanting to sound to grandiose, social media has changed the world; probably for the worse. A big part of that is to do with a handful of dominant platforms, each with their own content moderation philosophies that apply to an unfathomably large number of people.Impossible impossible to satisfy everyone and impossible to police.
A huge number of interoperable social networks, some tiny, some enormous, feels more representative of society as a whole, offering people choice and the level of protection they need. Maybe this is what social media should have been all along?