Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

Thoughts On Mastodon and Twitter

This past weekend I took a big step, at least for me. I removed the links to my Twitter profile from all my sites and profiles, made my Twitter profile private and set all the remaining content in my account to disappear after one month. For a site that has been my “water cooler” for over a decade that was a big decision and one I didn’t come to lightly.

I’m not leaving the web, far from it in fact. I’m simply going to put the energy and time I have into a service that has largely been my favorite social space on the web for the pat 2-3 years, my Mastodon account.

Why Mastodon?

I’ve actually been on Mastodon for quite some time. While I no longer have my original Mastodon account I did try to look up when it was active and, to the best of my knowledge I had used it back in 2017 as it was before the software switched to ActivityPub in an early version.

Originally I was simply looking for a more ethical alternative to Twitter. I was tired of the algorithmic manipulation, the surveillance capitalism, the trolls and the gaming in the name of attention.

From the first time I cleared my Twitter history, probably around 2011, I knew something was wrong with Twitter but there just wasn’t an alternative. It took 6 more years for Mastodon to catch my attention (about a year after it was first launched) and it seemed to be the answer to what I was looking for so I signed up.

I don’t know why I didn’t keep that early account but I did jump around to a number of Mastodon instances until February of 2020 when I finally signed up for a managed hosting service to create my own where I would have full control of my data and the rest of my experience.

Like any social network (or any software at all for that matter) Mastodon took some getting used to but, at least since creating this account in 2020, I’ve been hooked. The conversations have been better than any other network. The people have been great. The moderation and other account tools are second to none and, overall it has been a great experience.

When I started with Mastodon I was focused on making it another Twitter. I was just looking for a more ethical Twitter and thought I needed a 1:1 replacement. I was wrong. When I embraced the fact that Mastodon is Mastodon and not Twitter it all just clicked for me and that has been wonderful. Add to it the fact that Mastodon is, overall, a far more ethical service than any commercial social network and it’s hard to not be a fan.

So if you’re looking for an ethical network that won’t spy on you and will allow you to have some great conversations with great people without the trolls then I highly recommend giving mastodon a try.

Leaving Twitter is hard

For as much as I’ve enjoyed Mastodon, until the other day I was still very active on my Twitter account. It’s been my “security blanket” service for a long time. When I’m board, stressed or just too tired to do anything else Twitter was always there. I’ve spent so many hours on it I couldn’t even count them in total but, over the last few months, iOS tells me I’ve spent around 12 hours a week glued to my Twitter app of choice, Tweetbot. That is a hard habit to break.

The truth is for the most of that time it wasn’t as toxic for me as it was for others either. I stuck mostly to the WordPress circle after I had cleared out and reset the list of folks I was following a few years ago and it helped. Sure I got the occasional hateful comment of message but, compared to others my experience had been mostly positive which was hard to want to leave.

Even the ads and algorithms didn’t give me many problems as I used Tweetbot to access the service. This meant I only saw the old chronological feed of every Tweet and no ads. It synced my position between devices and helped curate the crap I didn’t want to see out of my feed. Honestly I would’ve probably left Twitter years ago without the 3rd party apps but with them Twitter really was a wonderful service, at least on the surface, for a very long time.

I’ve made friends on Twitter and I’ve even gotten jobs through Twitter. It was the one tool, at least more than any social network, that made remote work better as a familiar face was never more that a tweet away regardless of where I was working. The benefits of that I can’t overstate.

Leaving this all is not easy. It has, for better or worse, become a part of my identity and it will take some time to get past that.

Twitter’s dark side

Underlying all the positive, however, was always the dark side of Twitter.

From the overt bigots and harassment to the manipulation both by algorithms (at least when I engaged outside of Tweetbot) as well as by so many people who weren’t on there for community but attention. Of course those were just the problems we could see. Worse than all of it is the data collection and sale of everything you do with the service. It’s no stretch to say that big tech knows us better than we know ourselves and now all that data is in the hands of a right-wing narcissist.

The potential of abuse of existing and further data. The growing acceptance of trolling and hate and the removal of nearly all safeguards against disinformation mean the site really is not a safe place for anyone.

The positives of Twitter just cannot compete with this dark side and, for that reason, it is time to move on.

Twitter vs Mastodon

In the end leaving Twitter isn’t easy but is the right move for me.

Mastodon isn’t Twitter and that’s a good thing. It’s been a smaller, more authentic network that has taken a prominent place in my daily screen time, a place where I feel I can be more authentic and where people actually read what I post.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Twitter going forward. Elon Musk seems intent on killing it but, if somehow it survives and prospers again perhaps I’ll reconsider and use my account again. For now, follow me on Mastodon and let’s keep in touch!