Didn’t have time for a Soundtrack Monday post yesterday. I am incredibly irritated with a world that will not simply leave me alone to write my weird little stories. Descending into the sewers to live as a cryptid–or donning a cape and wandering into the woods, never to be seen again–sounds very appetizing indeed. If I could get coffee and reading material delivered in either situation, I’d probably be gone like a shot.
I suppose some of the irritation is detoxing from Twitter. The site seems to be imploding, and despite knowing it would happen, I’m still upset. A sizable chunk of my professional life and connections were stored there, largely because I had no choice. We all knew it was a bad deal, but it was the only one on offer.
This is no longer the case. It’s fascinating to see the realization percolate.
It’s also interesting to watch a lot of people fleeing the implosion, attempting to get the same dopamine hit and rush of indignation elsewhere. I’m hearing the same complaints I did when Twitter started, when Livejournal died, during the Yahoo buyout of Tumblr (now there’s a cautionary tale for dumb billionaires), during the several waves of Facebook emigration, etc., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum. In particular, watching people arrive on Mastodon and try to replicate Twitter experience on a platform that was specifically designed to avoid some of birdsite’s more rancid problems and practices has been…well, I wouldn’t call it entertaining, but there’s certainly an aspect of can’t-look-away. Making the shift to a place that isn’t centrally controlled, where ads aren’t part of the ecosystem and the “home” algorithm isn’t controlling what you see and when, is disturbing for a lot of people trained by years of the Twitter Character of the Day, the ads, and the constant shadowbanning and suppression not of fascists but of their opponents. Add to that the fact that people are mourning the loss of a service that wanted, as Dorsey himself admitted, to be a public utility and gave many the hope and interaction they needed to get through the first few years of pandemic, and it’s rough.
It’s really rough. A lot of people aren’t being their best selves right now. Change is difficult–I joke about dogs and toddlers being absolutely unable to cope with disruptions to routine, but adult humans aren’t far behind. The server slowdowns of a decentralized, volunteer-run system looking to absorb such massive waves of new users are entirely reasonable and expected–but not pleasant.
I’m really looking forward to marginalized communities coming out from under the weight of having to fight Twitter’s deliberate devaluation of their posts, as well as the encouragement and intentionally engineered ease with which birdsite was used for harassment and silencing of women, people of color, and indigenous groups. I’ve heard the objection that defederation and banning on Mastodon will lead to “silos”, and I think it’s entirely specious. We already know that bad actors don’t want to be locked into their own little cesspools, they want to pollute the drinking water for everyone else, and force us to listen to their nasty bigoted howling. That’s their entire goal, and being able to lock such people out with a few clicks of a button–especially if one is an instance admin–is in my opinion a net good that will only increase over time.
“But social justice won’t go viral on Mastodon!” Uh, I’ve already seen calls for help, calls to action, and news rip through the fediverse at light speed. The only difference is that they often have content warnings. So I find this objection to be specious as well, from my own direct experience.
“But Twitter was freeee!” some people howl, like the rusty gates of hell. I dunno, my friend, was it really? Already the internet requires the investment in hardware and privilege to access, and birdsite only appeared free because user info was being sold, ads were being forced into the stream, attention was being bought by corporate actors, and governments were busy subsidizing and payoff-placating Dorsey the way they have been subsidizing Musk, Bezos, Murdoch, the Waltons, and Mango Mussolini (among others) for decades. It was never free, you just didn’t see the cost because it was folded into the daily scramble to make a living and pay taxes, both activities which end up lining the pockets of bazillionaires because that’s how our society is set up.
But then, I’ve been on Mastodon since ’17, keeping my eggs in more than one social media basket the way I keep publishing eggs in more than one container. (The effort required to do so is disruptive to my productivity, but can’t be avoided under current conditions.) I’m in the luxurious position of already being over the first bump of the learning curve–and there really is one, with any social media platform–but the angry biting from some people who are determined not to like a new-to-them system because “it isn’t Twitter and I’m mad and grieving” is counterproductive in the extreme.
Not that it can be helped. We’ve seen this all before, every time a social media system implodes under the weight of corporate malfeasance and greed.
I just want to write, dammit. And manage this detox. The way Twitter and Facebook–and Instagram, and and and–are engineered to take advantage of some very basic brain chemistry is amazing, but it also makes tapering off and moving away rather hellish. Maybe I’m wrong and the site won’t fully implode. I’m astonished that World Cup traffic hasn’t done it in, though I still can’t reply to anyone in DMs and the user experience is growing increasingly janky. I thought it would break irreversibly this past weekend, and can’t decide whether I’m happy to be mistaken.
And I keep thinking, if breaking the addiction to birdsite is so uncomfortable for someone who has been in the process of mitigating exposure to it for five-plus years, it must be dreadful for those who never wanted to leave. Things will shake out, though, and people will eventually find other ways of getting the connection and access to breaking news they need. Personally, I’m using CounterSocial for news and Mastodon for most everything else, though at least one of my publishers really really wants me to keep my Instagram fresh and oh fuck, how did I get on YouTube anyway?
If you’re suffering a dopamine shortage from fleeing Twitter’s protracted strangulation at the hands of Manbaby Melon Husk (one of my favorite euphemisms for the site’s new owner, I gotta admit), try to be kind to yourself. It feels uncomfortable because your brain was being hit with the equivalent of weapons-grade casino-type sucker-retention tricks daily, and now it’s…not. It’s gonna take a little while for things to normalize.
Me? I’m gonna finish my coffee, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. He certainly doesn’t care about a massive shift in the online social ecosystem–he’s got things to sniff, and at least one attempt to crap in oncoming traffic to check off his daily to-do list.
But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. See you around.