Thoughts on social media in 2022

I've been thinking recently about how I use social media and what I want to prioritize. The impending purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk and his, shall we say, typically erratic statements and what they indicate about his agenda have prompted me to make some changes in my online presence and where I choose to spend my time.

First thing was to reactivate my previously mostly dormant Mastodon account and consolidate what was several accounts into one for simplicity. Mastodon is the closest thing there is to a Twitter experience with 99% of the annoyances removed, with an established user base. Plus, a lot of the people I want to talk to are there. I've been having a lot more fun there than I have on Twitter in about ten years. And if there's a problem, the guy who runs my instance actually responds to me when I talk to him.

Second thing was to delete my primary Twitter account and re-establish my alt account as my new primary, keeping the username from the old primary. This had the effect of removing most of the political BS from my timeline (and about 90% of my followers) and keeping a core group of accounts that I actually want to interact with. Now, any time you opt out of the politics and The Outrage of the Day, you're going to attract comments and criticism from people who want to make you feel guilty because you don't care.

One, that's bullshit.

Two, it's my life. My account. I get to determine what I read and respond to. You don't. To quote John Scalzi, "I'm not your outrage monkey." And among other things, after four years of The Former Guy and more than two years of a pandemic with no end in sight, I'm just worn out. I want social media to be fun, not just another way of beating my head against a wall and getting depressed.

Three, it's important to realize that Twitter is an echo chamber. Anything I post will be seen primarily by people I agree with and who agree with me, so beyond making me feel good for having made some kind of statement for The Cause, it has no practical effect. Twitter is not real life. It's a distortion of it.

This is not to say that there aren't people on Twitter in particular, and social media in general, whom I consider to be friends even though we haven't met. If you're reading this you're probably one of them, and I would hope you know me well enough by now to understand that.

But what you see on Twitter (and Facebook and Instagram and all other corporate-owned social networks) is in a critical sense not real. It is a product of an algorithm that wants you to be upset. It wants you to be outraged. It wants you to act in a certain way that will encourage other people to post who agree with you, or who disagree with you and want you to know it in no uncertain terms because you're a terrible person and you should be ashamed of yourself.

In short, it encourages argument. It encourages disagreement. It is in some ways at least partly responsible for the miserable state of the world right now. And it does all that to generate more profit.

And if you're like me, all of that eventually wears you out.

So I've decided I'll be spending more time on Mastodon and less time on Twitter. That's intentional. I want this stuff to be fun again. I don't want to feel like I have to take a shower or storm the ramparts every time I log on. Life is too short for that.

For one thing, Mastodon is fun. It feels like Twitter did in 2008 before it was discovered by celebrities and politicians and shitposters and all the other idiots I have spent a great deal of time blocking and muting just to make the platform usable.

For another, Mastodon is federated. It's distributed. This means that no single person can take it over and use it for their ends. Each instance gets to choose who it federates with, so if the local Klan guy decides to start up an instance, they can be effectively cut off. And on the instance that I'm part of, it's invitation-only, so we have some control over the bad actors, but federation means I can follow people on other instances, and they can follow me, so it never feels isolating.

There's no algorithm there. It's just you, your friends, and their posts. No advertisements. No suggested follows. No promoted tweets. No "because you liked this" or "because you followed X" or "this was favorited by" BS.

And all of it in glorious reverse chronological order.

As God intended.