Editorial: Elon Musk, Twitter, and Some Thoughts About My Relationship with Social Media

So, while I am supposed to be marking final assignments for a course I am team-teaching this semester, and working on a proposal for a virtual reality lab for my university library system, and worrying about a cracked tooth which may or may not be fixed and might still require a root canal, why the hell am I blogging about Elon Musk buying Twitter for US$44 billion?

I have a frankly lamentable history of jumping feet-first into new social networks ever since the early days of Friendster, circa 2003 (more details here and here). So it was with similar reckless abandon that, yesterday evening, I:

  • Set up an account on one Mastodon server, http://mastodon.online (which is run by the founder, CEO, and lead developer of Mastodon himself, Eugen Rochko), and then I was told that all the cool kids 😎 were hanging over at http://mastodon.social, so I set up an account there, too, and then set up a redirect from the former to the latter; and
  • Blasted out to most of my Twitter contacts that I was moving from Twitter to Mastodon:

After all this activity, I got myself so wound up last night that I could not fall asleep until quite late, and when I finally dragged myself out of bed this morning, suffering from you could call a social media hangover, I tweeted:

In other words, I went and did with Mastodon what I have done with every other new social network I have ever encountered: went hog-wild with the possibilities of making often-tenuous connections with other people, and operating under the delusion that my personal worth is somehow defined by the size, shape, and activity of my social graph! I am, however, getting much better at diagnosing the problem when it happens, and this time around, I figured it out within 24 hours, which is actually an achievement! So I will chalk this up as a win. 😉

Regardless of the impact of Elon Musk’s acquisition of and control over Twitter as a platform, I’ve decided that it’s as good a time as any to rethink my relationship with social media in general, and Twitter in particular.

For now, I’m going to keep one foot in Twitter, and plant my second foot in Mastodon (as my Plan B, in case I need to flee Twitter completely), then just wait, see what transpires, and act accordingly.

If you are curious and you want to kick the tires yourself on Mastodon, start here. You can also watch this two-minute YouTube introduction video:

P.S. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to look into Mastodon; PC Magazine reported that the service received an unprecedented flood of traffic yesterday.

P.P.S. Mastodon itself posted a blogpost about it: Twitter buyout puts Mastodon into spotlight. Here’s a bit of joining/promoting advice from that post:

We recommend using joinmastodon.org or our official iOS and Android apps to choose a Mastodon server to sign-up on, and to tell others to do the same when talking about Mastodon, instead of promoting our own servers directly. All Mastodon servers interoperate, allowing you to follow and be followed by other users from other servers seamlessly. And if you don’t like your choice afterwards, you can create another account and move all your followers to it. Distributing users across different servers is what makes Mastodon more scalable, socially and technologically.

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