Yesterday was a bit of a trying day for me personally. I’ve personally been bought into this notion that Mastodon provided a kinder gentler alternative to Twitter, but yesterday largely proved that notion completely wrong. The Fediverse has been the welcome home of the disenfranchised and marginalized, which is awesome since Twitter has not done a great job of protecting that group in any way. However some events happened recently and because of them I am glad that I joined up several weeks ago rather than right now at this time. I was able to see what I thought was the ActivityPub community in its native state, talking about interesting things openly and publicly and willing to friend each other just as easily. I was able to get settled in quickly with the help of a whole slew of people who offered useful advice as I docked myself into a corner of this big maelstrom of interesting things.
I started out on Mastodon.cloud which was a large overflow instance to the original flagship of Mastodon.social. However I quickly realized that maybe being on a big disconnected instance was not the best idea in the world. As such I made the migration to Elekk.xyz which is awesome and started funding the patreon a bit to help out in its maintenance. However when my good friend Liore decided to fire up her own private instance… I found myself making the jump yet again to Nineties.Cafe and I am extremely happy I did. It is sort of this protective bubble where the people I already knew and the friends of those people are hanging out and talking freely about our interests. It has made it very easy to drown out the events that are happening over in “fedi” aka the federated timeline.
Effectively some weeks back Wil Wheaton joined Mastodon and like any denizen of twitter had some difficulty adjusting to the weird mix of things going on here and all of the little social norms that I talked a bit about the other day. However with increasing fervor there was a move to push him off of the platform, and while there are folks who have very valid concerns… most of what I saw regularly in the form of shitposts from Fedi was effectively the consensus of “fuck him for being famous”. As such it felt like a defense coalesced with the goal of pushing the infection out of the system, and in that I saw a lot of behavior that I had seen on Twitter and other social media platforms that is normally targeted at those same disenfranchised and marginalized people that I talked about at the beginning of the post.
Essentially I was watching the bullied become the bullies, and it saddened me greatly. I thought I had found a quiet corner of the internet that functioned the way I remember the internet first feeling during those heady early days of the nineties. I’ve compared Mastodon to early IRC or to the BBS era… but the last couple of days have felt like anything but that. I am not saying that the folks who pushed back are evil or wrong, just that the tactics that they were employing were the exact same thing that I have seen employed against them in the past. The only real comment I have made on the issue was last night.
I guess today yet again proved that we can build a better technology, that has the potential for better community engagement. But we can’t necessarily guarantee that everyone is going to be willing to be better human beings. Human beings still suck, and I welcome the robot overlords that will come after us.
I still have a lot of hope in Mastodon and Pleroma and the rest of the little islands that live in the ActivityPub Fediverse, and I am super glad that I have found my little island full of refugees from the nineties. I just saw a lot of the same behavior that I have on other social media platforms and it made me a little bummed about the whole experiment. However I will keep moving on and keep looking for the good things out there happening. There are needlessly folks who feel safer after yesterdays events, and that is good I guess. I just wish it wasn’t at the cost of reverting to the same flavors of toxic gate keeping that had been used as a weapon against “the other” before. Yesterday just made me think a little too much about this quote from Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.