Federthingy and Socialwhatnot

I’ve had a very long hiatus away from every single form of social media – I quit Twitter in 2020, and since then have had literally no contact with anything in the SM space.

As a serial trier-outer, I’ve been on them all and have often been in the “early adopter” camp (very early to Facebook, Insta, Google+, Tumblr, you name it) but have always had a tendency to decide to quit just as the crowds arrived. I’d like to suggest this is because I’m some kind of rare type who sees the horrors of “mass adoption” arriving but the reality is I’m just really fucking contrary.

Twitter though: I joined in 2007 and hung on in there until 2020 in various guises – and this time around it was a combination of having a bump with someone which felt a little aggressive and nasty and the fact that I’d known for a long time that this wasn’t very good for me, mentally.

Two things here: firstly, I just didn’t like the “always checking” thing that is associated with the whole SM landscape – I guess FOMO, or just compulsion, button mashing – something. Secondly: I just don’t think I’m a very nice person in the context of the environment that these tools create. I’m narrowing this down to me, but actually (as we’ve seen) it’s all too easy for everyone to end up chasing a fairly nasty little crowd based urge, whether it’s pillorying someone whose opinion you don’t agree with, snarking about “them Nazis” (while knowing full well that someone who is a little right wing for your taste actually isn’t a Nazi, not at all) or getting tied up in some cancellation-style horror where a mildly spicy tweet from 15 years ago destroys someone’s entire career and sometimes life. Not to mention Instagram which I still maintain (quoting myself) has a tendency to narcissistic-fuckpumpery that just isn’t very attractive to anyone who takes a step back for half a minute.

In short: this can be a very unhappy place. And with a growing meditative practice (a practice that encourages taking a step back from reactivity and looking more widely at one’s place in the world), it has become very clear to me that this is just not really the way I wanted to be spending my time.

So it is with some surprise that I find myself gently easing my toes back into the world of social media over on Mastodon. In many ways, yes, it (or at least the corner of it that I inhabit) is a much more pleasant sort of place to be – on the one hand there are great tools for moderating / hiding content or whatever, but on the other I’m pretty sure that it’s purely that there aren’t many people here (yet?) and sadly I think it’s The Masses that fuck shit up for everyone and not anything else.

I’m not altogether comfortable. A large part of me enjoyed being completely, 100% outside of social media. It was noise I didn’t need, people I didn’t need to be following, rabbit-holes I didn’t need to be going down. I’m far too old / content to have any serious ambition to be followed by a gazillion people, and I don’t really care what the zeitgeist is on any particular topic. The things I’m interested in (let’s see: museum technology? Ableton? Meditative practice? Printmaking? Running?) are the things I engage with in other places, mainly “Down The Pub” or with tiny groups of friends, or via my RSS reader or whatever.

So…what exactly am I doing?

Well, I think it’s largely the technology aspect of this that I’m kind of fascinated by. After years of watching the walls closing around all those things we fiddled with in The Early Days (RSS, the odd API, random apps that stuck Facebook posts on a map, whatever) – it is a massive breath of fresh air to once again be able to dip into some code, get a feed (yeh – you actually can just add .rss onto the end of a public Masto profile!), twat about installing an instance on your own server, find someone who has written a PHP class that does X, embed some stuff, make an app… I mean – this is what the internet is for.

There is lots and lots about the Fediverse that needs work – as an onboarding experience it’s almost entirely baffling, and finding people is just a Big Problem That Needs To Be Solved. I’ll leave all that for another time – for now, just know that Erin Kissane’s post does a good job of summing up many of my thoughts.

So for now I’m going to just fiddle a bit, and try and enjoy the gentle lower slopes of my own little bit of the Fediverse, whilst also trying to not be a dick / staying in control of my Check It Every Minute impulses. Easy.

See you there, maybe.

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