Microblogging goes to the ... Mastodons
Will Twitter become extinct?
It finally happened: Elon Musk bought Twitter, and now droves (I'm using this word because I have no idea what the number is) are leaving the social media platform for greener or just as brown pastures.
Don't get me wrong; I dislike Elon as much as the next person. He's the epitome of a self-serving rich kid who thinks everything he buys was invented by him and most certainly improved by him.
But that's not why I'm taking a Twitter break.
Twitter is and has been, for a long time, broken, and I'm not sure it can actually be fixed.
For all the good it does connecting strangers and allowing acquaintances to stay in touch, it's still mostly an engine for anxiety, compulsion, and disinformation.
Perhaps worse, it uses all those things to make money; to make money off of the effort you put into creating content for Twitter. And, if not now, eventually, it will figure out a way to charge you for that free work you're doing.
But the good of Twitter, or rather the good of social media, may seem irreplaceable.
Where once I broke up my work day chatting with friends in chat rooms or via instant message or (gasp) on the phone, now I, and many like me, spend that time on Twitter.
The good news is that there are alternatives.
Mastodon seems to be emerging as a real contender. If you're unfamiliar, on its surface, Mastodon is essentially Twitter but confusing.
Dig in a little, though, and you'll find that what Mastodon does is strip away most of the bad of Twitter and provide most of the good, albeit in a slightly more technically-confusing way.
Mastodon is a social media platform built on open-source software. That means no one company owns Mastodon. It also has no ads (Though I believe some are experimenting with this). Allows you to edit posts. Has no algorithms that shape what you do or don't see.
It has many tools and tweaks that make it more innovative and better than Twitter but also make it harder to monetize the service.
For instance, you can't retweet (or boost in Mastodon parlance) something you find terrible and comment on it. You can only boost it without comment.
In other words, no more hate-sharing.
The reliance on instances of Mastodon, and the ability to move between them, also means that if you're unhappy with the tone and conversations of your local server, you can move to another one without losing anything. Also, you can communicate between instances with friends.
These are foundational, bedrock differences between Twitter. While the result of chatting with friends in an international public social space may appear similar, the control users have and the lack of monetization will — I suspect — lead to a less intense, less antagonistic experience.
What will happen if and when Mastodon truly blows up and starts to pull in the sort of world-changing numbers Twitter has for users? I'm not sure, but because Mastodon is built on open-source instances, it would be hard for it to ever mimic the bad (and probably the monetization) of Twitter.
I've already found the experience much more relaxing, much less emotionally traumatic.
I haven't left Twitter, but now I visit on occasion instead of living there, and when I do, I'm astounded at how awful the space is, despite the efforts of so many thoughtful, wonderful users.
Check out Mastodon and give yourself at least a temporary break from the boiling waters of Twitter.
If you're interested, it's free and not too complicated once you get on board. Here's how to sign up:
Check out this list: mastodon.fediverse.observer
Pick a server
Read its rules (by clicking on the name)
If you like it, sign up!
Add friends like me. You just need their username and domain.
For example, @Crecenteb@mastodon.social
Once you're all set up, go into preferences and turn on the advanced web interface, which will turn your view into something like Tweetdeck.
I know this particular newsletter isn't really about video games, but like most of you — I suspect — Twitter is where I stay in touch with my gaming friends, developers, and publishers.