About the posting culture on Mastodon. This is the second of three posts on Mastodon, because I've been on it for two months now and have been mostly ghosting Twitter.

Expect Conversations

If Twitter feels like yelling to be heard in a crowd of people talking over each other, Mastodon feels like making small talk with the people by the watercooler. The quality of small talk will vary. If you're around boring people posting pictures of their non-descript backyard, no shit you're gonna tune out. But if you happen to bump into people of culture, they can give you good personal recommendations for anything you're looking for.

The longer 500 character limit creates a conversation style that's closer to a message board community. There's less pressure to be witty because there's more space to breathe. Maybe this is why Mastodon's age demographic mostly consists of millenials and Gen Xers, because we're the people who remember posting in those message boards before Reddit came by and devoured that part of the internet.

On Mastodon, interactions are valued in of themselves, whereas on Twitter there's a culture of only making "high-value" tweets. I've shared the same music videos on Twitter and on Mastodon, and I've gotten more comments on the latter. On Twitter, people may like or retweet, but people hardly comment until they have something truly witty to say. Nobody wants to be a reply guy on Twitter. On Mastodon, they're not chronically online enough to know what a reply guy is, so they will make banal but genuine comments like "This is great!"

There's no algorithm to push the Bad Posts, but there's no algorithm to push the Good Posts either. Your best hope to follow people who boost the good shit. Otherwise, you'll see your average post. It's BeReal for posts, but average posts aren't "low-value" if you develop an attachment to the people who make them. It's like befriending someone off a forum, or Discord server, or your place of work. It's not the specific discussion that's important, it's the relationships being developed. I have befriended people I met on Twitter, but it was done off Twitter, through Discord chat or other mediums, whereas you can do it all on Mastodon.

Timezone Flock

My home feed is filled with more Southeast Asians than my feed on Twitter. I attribute this to the chronological feed so posters of the same timezone flock together, but also because the Filipinos on Mastodon are using the #Filipino hashtag to find each other. I typically post about music or books, and Twitter did not connect me with other Southeast Asians with those subjects--instead, I was shown the large "influencer" type accounts, especially for kpop. The only time Twitter connected me with other Filipinos was when I was obsessed with following the disappointment that is the 2022 Philippine elections. But on Mastodon, I'm connected to people of adjacent timezones by default.

Promoting Something Will Suck

If you're promoting something, be it an indie game, a podcast, a book, a youtube channel--it's gonna suck promoting it on Mastodon. The federated nature of the platform is designed for privacy, not virality. The smaller network on Mastodon means you're reaching less people. And the purely chronological feed means timing your posts is even more important, your followers need to be on Mastodon to see your post, much less boost it. As much as I like Mastodon, I think people with something to promote would prefer a centralized platform to replace Twitter because they want the megaphone, not the watercooler.

I can't remember the last time something went truly viral across Mastodon. There was that terrible John Mastodon meme that I muted, but that's about it, whereas something is always popping off every hour on Twitter. I don't think all social networks need viral content, but it has benefits. Fortunes have been made off a viral Twitter post. Using a Filipino pop music example, SB19 would not be around today if it weren't for a viral Twitter post linking to a dance practice video on YouTube. It wasn't YouTube that made them known to the Filipino public, it was Twitter. I don't think something like that can happen on Mastodon.

Less Online

Mastodon has three chronological feeds and they feel slower than Twitter. I used to be on a large instance, mstdn.party, and the federated feed on there was like a firehose but it felt boring somehow. It was filled with posts in languages I can't read, nature pictures I don't find compelling, and pedestrian takes on American politics. Big yawn. The local feed can feel the same way if you're in a big general instance, but since I'm on horrorhub.club now, the local feed is filled with horror movie screenshots which is more up my aesthetic alley.

Mastodon is less emotionally arousing than Twitter. There's no algorithm to push the latest dumpster fire take. Mastodon doesn't shove the latest Filipino Twitter drama in my face, so I am blissfully unaware of whatever Toni Gonzaga is up to. If you love Twitter drama, Mastodon will be boring. If you hate Twitter drama, Mastodon will be your sanctuary. Unfortunately I have a weakness for doomscrolling and online drama, so I blocked all social media on my phone. Even though Mastodon is more chill (and boring to some), I can still easily get sucked into it for hours at a time because I genuinely like talking to people and bouncing between conversations. I limit my Mastodon usage or else I'll never get around to writing my precious blog posts.

Shitposting Shortage

Twitter has a lot of shitposts; Mastodon does not. This is a problem. Whenever I see memes on Mastodon, they're either old or bad. Your average Twitter meme is probably equally mid but the invisible hand of the algorithm keeps them down. Mastodon memes are not Facebook bad but they're clearly at the tail end of the meme economy.

The John Mastodon meme is the only Mastodon-specific and Fediverse-wide meme I'm aware of and god, it was an exercise in one boring sack of shit after another. Yes, let's all imagine a perfect tech CEO that's the antithesis of Elon Musk. Yes, that will be very funny. No, it's not. It was so excruciatingly lifeless that I wanted to claw out my eyeballs. I was overjoyed when the hashtag died and Mastodon returned to talking shit about Elon Musk, as it should. If you made a John Mastodon meme and you're reading this, you're probably a lovely person but please harness your inner shitposter energy before you attempt to meme again, I beg you.

But to be fair, I am seeing better shitposts these days. I don't know if I'm just following funnier people, or there's more Twitter Migrants making their way, but it's a hopeful development--like a rainbow after a storm, or British food after Asians moved to the UK. It's not going to help Jamie Oliver's pathetic attempt at Thai Curry, but you can find quality if you look in the right places. For shitposts, the jorts.horse is a solid shitposting instance. I follow a bunch of people on there and for some reason shoegaze shitposts are a thing. Midnight Society is also on Mastodon, which is great because writers will never stop talking shit about each other and the opportunity for shitposting springs eternal.

I think there are two key factors that contributes to this shitposting shortage.

  1. Lack of quote tweets
  2. Not enough chronically online shitposters

The lack of QTs is an intentional design to reduce dogpiling but it deals a serious blow to humour. The russian doll multi-level nests of shitposting insanity is rendered impossible. Silly recontextualizations, with abrupt tonal shifts, are a part of internet humour, and taking a screenshot to manually QT won't hit the same. People are too lazy to screenshot in order to make the quip. The quips remain in heads, not on feeds. Tragic.

To be a good shitposter, you must be chronically online. You need to use the rapidly changing terminology of the week, meta discuss today's online discourse, and have your finger on the pulse of the other posters. You need mastery over these elements in order to make bizarrely astute, timely observations while subverting expectations. It takes serious work to correctly break people's brains.

On the other hand, Mastodon hates the chronically online. Mastodon is designed to keep your fingers off the pulse of the posting internet, because keeping your finger there for too long leads to brainrot and buying Twitter for billions of dollars. Mastodon uses Gen X terminology and old school emoticons on occasion, and the average internet poster is not on Mastodon. If the average poster tries, they think they're logging on "Mastodon" and get angry when they can't log into a different instance. Unless the Mastodon shitposter is very active on Twitter, they're fucked, which is why we're stuck with cursed memes like John Mastodon.

On my next post, I'll discuss the technology on Mastodon. Since I'm just barely tech-literate enough to format blog posts in HTML5, I won't talk about how the technology works. Instead, I'll focus on the user experience on the default web client and how it compares to Twitter. Spoiler: it's too hard for Boomers and Gen Zs to use. It's perfect.

Mastodon posts trilogy:

  1. People On Mastodon
  2. Posts On Mastodon
  3. Tech On Mastodon