Mastodon and the #Migration
Oh, where to begin? What can I say that has yet to be said a million times by more talented writers getting paid for their opinion? I can tell my story, though.
I started on Twitter in 2007 with the @patrickstewart handle. For several years that went by, I built up a fairly small but fun following. I mostly used it like Facebook, which was to follow anyone I knew IRL, some celebrities, and organizations. Eventually, however, after being confused with the Star Trek and X-Men actor Sir Patrick Stewart, I handed the account over to the actor's social media team. Thanks, Will Wheaton for that!
I then moved to @patrickbstewart, which continued for the next 13 years. By then, I still followed a hand full of IRL people, coworkers, and friends. No family of mine ever actually joined Twitter which was a blessing and a curse. I missed knowing what my family and friends were up to, and I certainly enjoyed the more real-time updates from the people I did follow. I began to build a small community of users and enjoyed it still.
But then came the mainstream. I didn't notice it much until the 2020 elections. Everything went crazy at that point. Twitter became a cesspool of political opinions, memes, and angry temper tantrums. In response, I opened a third account @knightg_lol. This time, I only wanted to use Twitter for following gamers, professional esports pros, streamers, and maybe the occasional YouTuber. And for a time, that worked. I could weed out everything that bothered me about the Twitter community and ONLY follow esports content.
However, even with the highly curated lists, it was impossible to keep the negativity out once Musk took over Twitter. From the hate-filled hashtags to the constant news articles about the thousands of people being fired for no reason. He didn't have to fire 60% of the company immediately. He could have taken time to examine what he had just bought. But nope! Billionaire CEO's no better, I guess.
I used to look up to Musk. When he created electric cars, I didn't know anything about them. When he created SpaceX, I didn't know anything about rockets. But I know was racism and bigotry are. I know the difference between freedom of speech and freedom of consequence. And I couldn't take it anymore. Banning journalists who called him out was the last straw for me. So I heard about a new kind of social network called Mastodon. Being an avid Linux user, I knew what open-source, federated, and decentralized meant. I decided to take a plunge and joined mastodon.social.
At first, it seemed just like Twitter but with more servers. I had to get used to how to navigate the federated timeline and the local timeline and how to follow people on different instances. But I noticed something quickly. Everyone here was more talkative. They all wanted to share uplifting words, and boost posts they thought were great. I even started to gain followers somehow! In the first two weeks, I had reached 100 followers, which was more than I had ever gained on Twitter in over 15 years. By the first month of regular usage, I had reached 200 followers. I couldn't believe it. Were they all bots? Nope! I checked nearly all of them individually. And I wasn't the only person who had that experience. How is it that on Twitter, I couldn't get ANY likes or retweets, yet on Mastodon, I received several likes and boosts a day?
I now fully believe it's the algorithm that had essentially shadow-banned me. In other words, you can still use the site, but no one will see your tweets unless you are directly followed. A follower chimed in: "I think most people were shadow-banned and just weren't aware of it." How could it be that if all small Twitter users were equal, many of us could go months with almost 0 interactions regardless of what we were tweeting about? With 250 million users worldwide. I have to believe the all-powerful algorithm is the blame for Twitter to become the void everyone was shouting into, only to find out no one could hear us.
Well, now they can hear us. One disaster at a time, people will move over to another social platform. Whether it's Mastodon or something else that appears, it's time to go. I deleted my knightg_lol Twitter account and, if I can ever get back into it, I'll delete @patrickbstewart too.
The world is big enough for more than one microblogging platform, and this won't be a zero-sum game for either social network. But the world doesn't need more hate. It doesn't need more racism and fascism. It needs more love, more heart, and more compassion. It needs more space for those. And for me, that space is Mastodon.
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