Elon Musk bought Twitter, and it turned out - well - great! Oh, not Twitter, that ship is sinking fast, but switching to Mastodon has shown me where the internet I thought I lost years ago was hiding all along!
I can't really remember what I thought when I first started using the internet. A lot of tech people have a story about how they just instantly gained a clarity of mind, and understood that this was the future. I didn't. But I do remember a feeling from the first years I was on the internet. It was a feeling of discovery, of community, of freedom.
I think it came from being able to go to a site, and speak to other people, who I didn't know, but who would teach me new stuff. I could ask questions, and get answers. And over time, I started to know people, these people who I'd never met, and never would. But we had this thing together. And we knew we had to take care of it. Either as moderators, or just by welcoming new people and showing them the ropes.
Slowly, it was Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that took the place of these smaller communities. And I lost control. I had slowly started to fight back. I stopped using Facebook and Instagram when I left university, but Twitter stayed with me. It was the place with the most interesting people, though I no longer felt any joy using it. Musk buying the birdsite made me realize that I wanted to get out of there, and I heard others were moving to Mastodon, so I followed them. And it is just so much better!
One of the real improvements have been what content I see in my feed. On Twitter it became a huge mess of tweets from people I follow, stuff they liked, stuff twitter thought I would like, stuff Twitter was paid to shove in my face. It just became a blur of posts that weren't really interesting to me. On mastodon I suddenly have a feed of relevant content that I chose! It doesn't try to guess what I want, or boost content from larger accounts. It's just posts from the people I follow, as they are posted!
Taking this a step further, the instance has a local feed. You can think of this as your feed if you had chosen to follow everyone on your instance. That seems insane, but it makes sense! Because most likely you are on an instance with people you share something with, your location, you passion, your work. And that makes a feed from these people interesting. You can use it to discover new people and topics. This also makes the case for joining a relatively small instance, and migrating away if it becomes too large.
And with this smaller instance, I get the community that I was missing! I can feel that there are real people on the other side of the posts. I don't just get the posts with 200 likes, I see everything. And it's possible to have a discussion, get my views challenged, and learn something new.
Mastodon is not a replacement for Twitter – it was never meant to be. Instead, it is a second chance to experience how the internet was meant to be. Decentralised, made by people, for people!
So, why don't you come join us, or at least see what the fuzz is all about?