One thing about me is that I clearly hate change so I’m a baby and thanks for asking, my phone, which hasn’t seen a software update since 2017, regularly calls it when I try to do it. things like sending an email or texting a friend or pressing any button. My feelings for downloading a new app are the same as others for skydiving: fear of jumping into the unknown and also death.
Unfortunately, the other thing about me is that I’m a masochist, so I find myself downloading Mastodon – the platform the world now owns and launching with varying degrees of certainty to replace Twitter, which is slowly crumbling under its micromanagement. most needy billionaire.
Related: Joining the herd: What’s it like to switch from Twitter to Mastodon?
Despite its name, which sounds like a dating app for metalheads or paleontologists, Mastodon went viral last month. A mass panic ensued on Twitter as staff numbers dwindled and advertisers left in droves. People are saying goodbye to each other in dramatic posts posting all their other social media accounts. There was a real end-of-day vibe – I hadn’t seen anything like it since the night before December 21, 2012; day and I’m hungry.
Enter: Mastodon, the muesli bar of the Twitter apocalypse – a social network that promises a user-driven experience, not dollars; a network without algorithms or ads. And people bought it. An estimated 3 million people attended in the last month alone.
It takes me a few weeks to sign up. Most of the time I get close—just derailed by two hours of following my enemies on Twitter and shaking my fist at their success. When I finally tap the app for the first time, it opens with a picture of cartoon elephants (sorry, mastodons) which makes me think I accidentally downloaded Neopets.
I realize the tweet equivalents are called ‘toots’, I want toot toot chugga chugga outta
The first thing it does is tell me to join a server. This is because Mastodon is a fediverse that looks like something related to fedoras (m’astodon) (sorry), but that means it’s actually made up of individually managed groups that can only communicate with each other. Anyone can start a server and it’s mostly centered around geographic locations or interests; The app encourages me to search among them using a range of titles: art, music, journalism, activism, etc.
I spent about 30 minutes on this selection, but then realized I was thinking too much about it: you can freely see and talk to people on other servers, but only posts from your own community will appear in your stream.
I’m considering going with the generic Mastodon group which seems to be the most popular with 149,000 users. But at the last moment I gave up. My first and only streak of patriotism runs through me: I join an Australian host called. aus.socialWhich makes me feel like I’m attending a swing party or 11th grade prom.
Wow. Faucet. Next screen.
This is a rules page with different rules on different servers, similar to what you might see in a Facebook group. “Do not break the law (Australia)” this page says OK, loser, I guess.
I finally arrived – and within seconds the app started failing: it reboots at random intervals, as if it was designed to torture me. Cartoon elephants mock me with their silly cheerful smiles. Please, please, if you stop freaking out, I promise I won’t make fun of your ridiculous terminology again. Instantly, it stops throwing errors – and then I notice that their tweet equivalents are called “toots”. I want to get the fuck out of here.
The next morning I return to an empty feed and immediately start following people. There’s no easy way to find your Twitter partners on Mastodon, but I’m greedy. I follow people until I’m sure I have an RSI. Editors, colleagues, friends, even – horribly – politicians (see above, filed under masochism). I follow people I hate. I follow people who hate me. I follow George Takei.
To me, Mastodon is a tabula rasa and all social relationships are reset. I feel good after my stalking frenzy.
Days pass. The heights pass with them and are replaced by a brutal fall. I’ve spent hours on this app right now and all I see are hundreds of tooot reposts a day with pets, waterfalls, and George Takei’s heavy text blocks that made me miss character limits.
I switch to the explore tab with popular posts on Mastodon. “This makes me laugh every year,” someone wrote over a Christmas meme that I’m sure didn’t make anyone laugh.
Everything feels a little… stale? The more I scroll, the more a pang of nostalgia blooms within me for Twitter’s unbridled frenzy: the last refuge for (me) who wants to spend their time watching people describe themselves in a destructive way; the only real home for the internet’s worst rhetoric remnants; where cooking is fascism, drink coffee is is classer and gaming is animal abuse.
Perhaps Mastodon will soon decay too; For the sake of all its users who are out there for serious discussions (hell), I hope it stays unblemished in its vision: a utopia like no Twitter and everything, like the quiet days of the first Facebook chats with cat photos next to it. personal screeds with little consequence.
I go back to the home screen for one last look and – like a clock – it malfunctions and freezes.