The first of three posts on Mastodon, because I've been on it for two months now and have been mostly ghosting Twitter.
Mastodon is still young and it isn't a full Twitter replacement, but I'm staying on to see how it develops and improves. I assume you know the basics (e.g. why there's been a movement towards it, the decentralized structure, what instances are), so I won't explain any of that. Instead, I'll focus on what my experience has been in three parts: Mastodon's people, the posts, and the tech. This post covers the people.
Most people are still on Twitter
Only a handful of my Twitter mutuals actively post on Mastodon. There are tools like Twitodon and Fedifinder that make migrating contacts easier, but it's not that helpful if people are still mostly posting on Twitter. People will use any app, even if it's actively imploding, if their friends are on it. While Mastodon is growing, it cannot compete with Twitter's two-decade-old userbase. The inertia and network effects are incredibly strong.
The higher the follower count you have on Twitter, the harder time you'll have rebuilding your following. If you're an obscure gem like me whose Twitter followers never exceeded 300, it's not a big deal. My Mastodon followers seems to be catching up anyway.
Needs more diversity
Twitter feels distinctively global in ways that Mastodon isn't yet. Mastodon feels like a Discord server with mostly white people from North America and Europe. You'll be at home if you want to post in German, but if you want to shitpost in Tagalog like me, it's gonna take some effort to look for your compatriots.
Mastodon's search features, to put it lightly, hugely sucks ass. You can only search for hashtags, which is an intentional design choice since people have a tendency to attack others for a 2-year old tweet. BUT you don't see the hashtags from all instances, only the ones your home instance is connected to. So if someone posts with the #Filipino hashtag on @kpop.social, but nobody on my @horrorhub.club instance is friends with an account on @kpop.social, then I'm not going to see that post. (This is just my understanding. Correct me if I'm wrong.) This makes finding other Filipinos using search way harder.
I'm waiting for more people to join and make it as global as Twitter. If I can get my local typhoon updates off Mastodon and have enough people respond to my Tagalog shitposts, then I can completely leave the birdsite.
NIMBYs and the Twitter Migrant Crisis
Mastodon NIMBYS are around and love to lecture newbies. But there are also Twitter migrants that complain about it being not like Twitter. I suspect both groups will be miserable for as long as they hold those expectations. Mastodon will be like any physical place that experienced huge waves of migration, it won't be what it used to be but it won't a Twitter duplicate. It will be an unpredictable mix of the two cultures. If you've ever lived in a place with a high population of immigrants, or a child of immigrant parents yourself, you know what I'm talking about. I try to be reasonably adaptive, like adding alt text descriptions to my images so my shitposts can be accessible to all, but I don't try to act like the old guard because I'm not. I continue to shitpost irreverently about monsterfucking because apparently that's my personal brand now.
Making new connections
Mastodon requires finding new people manually through organic means: exploring hashtags, checking who boosted your post, getting a vibe for people through their profiles. I have a tendency to explore internet rabbit holes and Mastodon isn't too different. It's like a new city to explore, it's slower-paced but the search for interesting people can be fun. The demographic seems largely left of center and either works in tech or has an hobbyist interest in niche tech. If writing a basic HTML website in 2023 is considered a niche tech hobby, I guess I fit.
Since the feed is purely chronological, I often encountered posts by other Southeast Asians on the federated feed. That had never happened to me on Twitter. My shitpost regarding demons and monsterfucking in Filipino pop music brought the other Southeast Asians to the yard, and we had an extensive discussion about Malaysian and Filipino folklore creatures. I've posted the same videos on Twitter before and never got a response from other SE Asians. I attempted to follow Filipinos and SE Asians on Twitter but they weren't on the top of my feed so our interactions were limited in comparison.
Also, the vibes are different when there's a smaller community. When the entire world is on Twitter, finding another Filipino isn't special at all. Instead, I'm looking for red flags on their profile. On Mastodon, the vibes are different. A tiny connection is a pleasant surprise precisely because you had to work to find those connections organically. Maybe it's just Stockholm Syndrome, but at least it's been a less stressful, overstimulating experience for me as compared to my time on Twitter. I'll discuss posting culture and the feed in the next Mastodon post. Yes, it will be a blog post about Posts on Mastodon and I'll post about it on Mastodon.
Mastodon posts trilogy:
- People On Mastodon
- Posts On Mastodon
- Tech On Mastodon