Possibility and Probability

A Python programmer with a personality thinking out loud

8 February 2020

Using Mastodon instead of Twitter

by Nick

In a recent post I talked a little bit about Digital Minimalism and how removing certain things like Social Media might be better for your attention. But what if social media is a source of information of you. Is there a way to keep up without succumbing to the lesser parts of it? Let’s look at one weird example, using Mastodon instead of Twitter.


One of my beliefs is that the power of Twitter is the communities that form there. Groups of like minded people (by profession or topic) find each other and share knowledge. If you want to become part of one of those communities, following along is a natural and easy thing to start doing.

So the advantage of using Twitter in this situation is that there’s a built in audience of people you wish to communicate with. There are other platforms where a community might exist, but is much smaller.

Is this a problem? Or an opportunity?

How is this an opportunity?

Let’s assume for a minute that the upside of sharing is worth engaging in some form of social media.

If sharing into a community is good, then sharing into a smaller more focused community might be even better. Mastodon is a loose confederation of communities that has attracted a lot of people wishing to escape the pitfalls of traditional social media.

Having new focused conversations in a medium like this will be painful at first because there’s not as much community momentum as there is on a larger platform. But my thesis is that once a critical mass has been accumulated that the overall conversation will be better: Participants are consciousenous objectors to major platforms (usually due to objections over things not related to the topic being discussed). Having a conversation in a more focused place should lead to a higher quality all around.

If you can find (or make!) a nucleus of like minded people on Mastodon then your odds of having a satisfying interaction goes up pretty dramatically.

What keeps this from being horrible like Twitter/Facebook?

In some sense, the sins of past platforms forced people to leave them and come to a decentralized alternative like Mastodon. The memory of that tends to cause people to “enforce” the norms of a group and keep it on topic.

Its a terrible way to live, always thinking in terms of a negative, but for small values of X, it can be effective in terms of keeping a community together.

Worst comes to worst, the community could fracture (again), and the cycle repeats….

In other words, just use the golden rule for online interactions: “Treat others how you want to be treated”

Want good content? Post good things.

Want people to behave? Behave yourself, and don’t tolerate people who misbehave.

Exactly. That isn’t a bad thing.

Think about why you are using Twitter. Are you wanting new information? Or recognition via likes/retweets/comments?

If you are wanting the latter, then ask yourself why. Maybe twitter is a better location for you to interact.

For me, I’m more interested in new information, especially important ideas/concepts. Pulling that signal out of the background noise of twitter is certainly possible, but the cost is high.

If the noise levels are not as high, as can be the case on Mastodon, then signal extraction becomes much easier.

Take action

If you are looking at Digital Minimalism to try and retake control of your mind, think about why you use social media. Then look at something like Mastodon and see if a smaller more focused community might be an answer.

Its your mind, you should take control of it.

tags: thinking