The New Mastodonians

Just like thousands of other people fleeing the raging shitfest that Twitter has become, I recently created an account on Mastodon. This is a social network that’s been around a few years, but it’s remained a quiet community, minding its own business and experiencing a slow but steady growth around the world. Until recently, that is, when the unclean hordes of Twitter refugees came flooding in and ruined the whole thing.

Well, nobody’s “ruined” Mastodon. But what you’ll find is that some longtime Mastos (is that what we call them?) are openly prickly and even resentful of the influx of new users who, as should be expected, are trying to figure out how Mastodon works. And boy, are they letting us know how they feel about the newbies!

One widely-shared blog post by a longtime Mastodon user likens the influx of new users as a “home invasion”, written in a cranky, get-off-my-lawn tone that I’ve seen echoed by a few other prominent users:

They call themselves “refugees”, but to the Mastodon locals it feels like a busload of Kontiki tourists just arrived, blundering around yelling at each other and complaining that they don’t know how to order room service.

…There’s another, smaller group of people mourning a social media experience that was destroyed this week — the people who were active on Mastodon and the broader fediverse prior to November 2022. The nightclub has a new brash owner, and the dancefloor has emptied. People are pouring in to the quiet houseparty around the corner, cocktails still in hand, demanding that the music be turned up, walking mud into the carpet, and yelling over the top of the quiet conversation. All of us lost something this week. It’s ok to mourn it.

Um, isn’t this being a little…dramatic? You’re in mourning? But OK, sure. Did you feel so home-invaded when Facebook got popular? How about LiveJournal or Friendster? Usenet? Dial-up BBSes? Anyway, thanks for being so welcoming.

Granted, a lot of new users are expecting Mastodon to work just like Twitter, and not all of them are taking the initiative to learn about it themselves with a simple search. They’re flooding the timeline with lots of “How do I…?” posts, expecting everything to be explained to them by everyone else. And many times, friendly Mastos are patiently answering their questions and/or sharing helpful links. I’ve helped a couple myself, and I’ve only been on there a week.

But apparently, to some people the very presence of these unwashed, ignorant masses is viewed as some sort of personal attack. The murder of something to be mourned. (Seriously — he uses the word “mourn” five times in this one post. The gatekeeping is strong with this one.)

Calm down, folks. Things will settle eventually — just try to deal with this wave of new users with some grace and patience. You knew this would happen someday, right? Isn’t a good thing that people are trying something new to escape the toxic hellscape of Twitter?

Anyway, I had some knowledge about Mastodon and how it works before I officially joined, but it’s still been an interesting experience getting the feel of the place. I love its decentralized setup, complete lack of advertising, and self-policing nature where the abusive scum and villainy on the network can easily be partitioned off from everyone else (through blocking/muting/server bans). I’ve been on there quite a lot recently and have only encountered one person who was a toxic misinformation-spreading asshat, so I blocked him. I then checked out the server he’s on and found much more toxic asshattery running rampant on there, so I blocked his entire server. Sometimes it’s best to just nuke them from orbit, just to be sure.

So my Mastodon experience has been 99.5% positive — I love just jumping on there and looking at the worldwide feeds to see what people are talking about. It feels very chill — yes, there are some posts about politics or other heavy topics, but you’ll also find people posting about all kinds of other stuff. It has the feel of early social media, before algorithms and advertising started fucking up the entire experience. Mastodon doesn’t use algorithms to drive content, which means typical “influencer” behavior won’t work…and that leads to less crap for the rest of us to see. What’s not to like?

One area of Mastodon I’m not so thrilled about is the encouraged overuse of Content Warnings by some folks…but that’s something for another time!

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