The End of the Social Network School Year

Since the mass exodus of Twitter after Elon bought it, I've felt unsettled in the Social Media world; like I'm sitting in someone else's house and can't quite be as comfortable as I would like to be.

Like a lot of my Twitter followings (and followers), I moved across to Mastodon when the blue bird started flailing. I'd had an unused Mastodon account for a while, but with more and more people moving across, it felt like the new natural home to while away the hours.

Twitter was good, Twitter was a central place where people (when I say people, I mean my "social media circle") posted and syndicated and shared. If posts were shared elsewhere, they were cross-posted to Twitter either manually or via some sort of automation. Twitter had a nice API that lots of services integrated with and it was home.

If I had time to scroll, Twitter was my first port of call. It was only when I had caught myself up did I then move on to Instagram and other things (I quit Facebook a while ago as I scrolled but got no value). I know I use social media in an odd way - when I open it I go to the top and scroll back through time - I read it in reverse. I started doing this when I didn't have enough time to keep up with my timeline, so I would rather see relevant "real-time" Tweets than always seeing ones that are a day or two behind.

I liked the Twitter algorithm (before it got spammy). As someone who was an infrequent scroller, having "tweets your followers liked" appear in my timeline was good. I got a general snapshot of "what was hot" without having to read every single Tweet from every single following.

Then the thing happened where some douche threw his money and attitude around and made it go from tolerable to damn near unusable. Tools cropped up to migrate your followings (if they had linked to Mastodon accounts) to try and make the Fediverse like the before times - but it hasn't.

Not everyone moved to Mastodon, not everyone toots like they tweeted, not everyone has stuff syndicated or cross-posting. I've started to miss out on stuff, I've started to lose contact with people who I tweeted with. Those who aren't nerds and are put-off from Mastodon I won't ever hear from again, as we weren't close enough to have exchanged numbers or connected elsewhere.

I understand decentralised social networks and I get why they are a good thing for the web, but I don't like them. As someone who is quite tech-savy, Mastodon scared and confused me when I was signing up. I don't like that anyone can have any duplicate username on other servers, I don't like having to pick a server, I don't like not being able to discover people or see what is poppin'. Another pain point is that if I find someone I want to follow, I have to open my app or instance and search for them there - rather than being able to hit the follow button straight away - this has actually got in the way of me following people.

This movement (for want of a better word) means that everyone has dispersed - there isn't one place where I can find everyone. This means I now have several places, netwroks & sites I feel like I have to check on a regular basis ( some of them with separate spaces for separate topics) just so I can feel like I'm in the loop. There's Mastodon, LinkedIn and Instagram, there is my RSS reader, there is Discord and Slack (each with many different servers) each, plus some conversations have moved to WhatsApp.

It's like the end of a School year where everyone is going off to different Universities, Colleges or Jobs. I don't feel like I have that sense of a network - it just feels like I'm watching from the outside. You have to go and hunt for people rather than bumping into friends of friends at a house party.

I don't have a solution, I don't even know the point in this post - I just needed to get my thoughts out somewhere.

I hope the next year or so sees a progression in the technology. An adoption of one specification that means we can use the Fediverse (or whatever is there) to combine all of the social networks into one stream. Let me follow people on Twitter, Mastodon or RSS feeds from one place.

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Mike Street

Written by Mike Street

Mike is a CTO and Lead Developer from Brighton, UK. He spends his time writing, cycling and coding. You can find Mike on Mastodon.