Twitter vs. Mastodon: On Abandoning the Titanic

Annika Backstrom
in Social, on 5 July 2019. It is tagged #mastodon and #twitter.

I'm frustrated about Twitter vs. Mastodon1 so I'm going to dump some thoughts here. It's surely all been said but I want to get it out of my head, and nobody on Twitter cares and everybody on Mastodon already knows and doesn't want to hear it again.

Somebody in a Slack linked to this thread by Rebecca Cohen (@GynoStar) on Twitter. The gist is she replied to some trolls using Princess Bride quotes and got a temporary suspension for "abusive behavior". This is pretty much what we've come to expect from the moderation teams of big platforms: rules are inconsistently enforced, mod teams suffer inhuman conditions and don't always make the decision we expect or want, trolls routinely weaponize moderation tools against the marginalized groups those tools are meant to protect.

I've been off Twitter since October 2017 and finally deleted my account in late 2018. As someone who already left that particular flavor of toxicity behind, it's frustrating watching this same story play out over and over.

People want Twitter to get better. They want to fix it. Twitter was great for a time, but objectively, is it worth saving? Is that model, with its shitty moderation and reliance on ads and its hostility towards app developers and its neverending current of toxicity, even possible to save?

Mastodon is not a panacea. The protocols aren't perfect, the software is good and improving but not everyone's cup of tea, and the moderation and funding models are different than we're used to. But after two years, my only wish is more people would join so we can make it better together. Not just with code, but with community and collaboration.

Complain about Mastodon (the software) if you want. Question the longevity of individual servers with no long-term plan. Point out the weak spots with distributing and duplicating moderation across thousands of servers and admin and mods. But please, don't just dismiss it without really committing, and later complain that "nobody is on Mastodon." Seriously, you all sounds like a bunch of Titanic passengers waiting for somebody else to prove the lifeboat is safe. Just get off the damn boat.

Everyone I know is on Mastodon!

I respect that this is not an easy calculus for some people. I exercised a ton of privilege deleting my own Twitter. The platform is hugely important to some people's revenue streams, especially content creators. There are crossposters in both directions to help you, if you need them. (Just, please, I beg you, don't set up a Twitter to Mastodon crossposter only to ignore it.) Every engagement you make on Twitter helps entrench that platform. You get something from them, but they are taking whatever they can from you, and giving back as little as possible completely on their terms.

This is the herd immunity of social media. Fixing any of the complex problems we face these days takes effort. It's easy to be a naysayer. If you have the spoons, please come and be part of the solution.

  1. I'm using this as shorthand to mean "microblogging over ActivityPub," sorry Pleroma/GNU Social/other folks.