A Few More Thoughts on My Move from Twitter to Mastodon

HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: My proposal (and budget!) for a virtual reality lab for my university library system is almost done, and soon I will be able to get back to blogging “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”, as the tagline of the RyanSchultz.com blog states. Thank you for your patience!

It’s been almost one month since I first decided to jump ship from Twitter after Elon Musk announced that he was buying the microblogging platform, and it seems like a good time to share with my readers my thoughts about the move.

In only 3-1/2 weeks, I have 150 followers on Mastodon, and I am already following 300 people!

The culture and ethos between Twitter and Mastodon are completely different, like night and day. There is a blessed absence of advertising and “influencers”, people are politer, there is a relative lack of trolls, and the lack of a quote feature means that people tend to talk to each other, instead of about each other. Partly, these differences are because Mastodon has a much, much smaller network of users than mighty Twitter. (Some stats: Mastodon has about 4.4 million users, while Twitter boasts over 396 million users.)

One thing I quite like in Mastodon is the ability to put a content warning (CW for short) on a post, so that the person reading it has to read the content warning and decide whether or not to click through to read and/or see the actual content. Here’s an example of a recent post I made with a content warning:

One person whom I am following on Mastodon, Rachel Sharp, wittily summed up the difference between Twitter and Mastodon as follows:

Tonight I spent a little time scrolling both Mastodon and Twitter, and I gotta say, the tone difference is just STAGGERING…

Mastodon: I put a content warning on my dinner in case anyone doesn’t feel like looking at food right now.

Twitter: THE WORLD IS BURNING AND SO TOO SHOULD EVERYONE ON THIS HELLBIRD SITE, AAAAAH!!!

After kicking the tires on a number of iOS apps, I have settled on a paid one, called Toot!, which I quite like (I tend to use it on my iPad while I am relaxing on the sofa in the evenings, before I go to bed). In addition to my main account on the mastodon.social instance, I also have an account on the scholar.social academic-themed instance (an “instance” is the term for a Mastodon server). I have discovered, much to my dismay, that for some reason, my employer blocks the former site, but not the latter. I also can use Toot! to monitor the local/community timeline on scholar.social, choosing to follow people from my main account on mastodon.social.

One of the things that I really like about Mastodon is that it is possible—and, in some cases, even encouraged!—to switch instances. For example, I could decide that I prefer the local, more focused community over on scholar.social, and move my main account over there. While your “toots” (what Mastodon calls tweets) do not follow you over to your new instance, the social network of people you follow can be carried over! So you’re not starting off from scratch every time you move, like you do on Twitter. I quite like the flexibility this offers!

All is not perfect, however. One thing I do miss is the ability to following certain Twitter accounts that are essentially feeds of tech news (e.g. Ars Technica). While Ars Technica does offer many RSS feeds, it looks as though I will have to learn a bit of Unix (or pony up for a premium IFTTT account) in order to set up a bot to automatically post Ars Technica news items, which I can then follow on Mastodon. (The good news is, that once I set this up, anybody can then follow it! Or, I could just bug Ars Technica to set up a Mastodon feed…) I am already keeping abreast of news sources like WIRED, the Guardian, and The New York Times via Mastodon, using bots that either the publications themselves or other users have set up.

And, let’s face it, every change does take a bit of adjustment. I have discovered that, while I have severely curtailed the amount of time I now spend on Twitter, I now find myself checking my Mastodon timeline several times a day! I seem to be just as addicted to the dopamine rush of getting my toots favourited, boosted (i.e. retooted), and commented on! I’m just glad that I am conscious of this, which is, of course, the first step towards addressing the problem of how I use social media in general.

I have retained my Twitter account, to (automatically) cross-post new items posted to the RyanSchultz.com blog, as well as any public toots I make over on Mastodon. And, of course, I will still use Twitter Spaces social audio, as it seems to be taking market share away from the Clubhouse app, which appears to be slowly circling the drain as it bleeds users, even as it adds new features. So, you might still find me on Twitter from time to time, even as I try to wean myself off reliance on the service.

This picture still makes me laugh whenever I see it!

If you are intrigued by Mastodon and want to try it out for yourself, please go to joinmastodon.org, pick an instance/server, and create an account. It’s easy and free, and then you can follow me at @ryanschultz@mastodon.social—follow me and I’ll follow you back! Please note: If you follow me from an account with zero information (no icon, no banner, no profile, no posts, no comments), I will most likely block you instead of following you back.

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.

Housekeeping Notice: The RyanSchultz.com Blog Is on Hold Until Further Notice

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

While I have announced that I put my blog on indefinite hiatus so that I can focus on some important projects for my full-time paying job, you might have noticed that I have still slipped in one or two brief posts over the past week.

Yesterday, I learned that I have a family member who is seriously ill, to the extent that my entire family has driven or flown back to Winnipeg this week to see him in palliative care. I will not be sharing any further details about this, as I consider it a private matter.

But I’m juggling a lot at the moment, and frankly, I’m not juggling it very well. I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, angry, anxious, and depressed. And I am lashing out at the world in a way which means that I need to take a step back, and try to regain some equilibrium, to find some peace.

This blog will be on indefinite hold (with no exceptions) until further notice. I don’t know when I will be back. But I do need to step away from the keyboard.

April Fools Day in the Metaverse: Enjoy the Delicious Snark and Pranks!

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: The RyanSchultz.com blog will be on an indefinite hiatus, as I am working on a brand new project: writing up a proposal for a VR lab for my university library system! More details here. I’ll be back as soon as I can, folks!

Yesterday, April 1st, was April Fools Day, when people often pull pranks on each other. I wanted to share with you two such pranks, one by Tom Ffiske, and the other by Tony Vitillo (a.k.a. SkarredGhost). Both are active commentators on the evolving metaverse marketplace and, like me, they sometimes poke fun at some of its absurdities!

Tom posted the following to Twitter:

When you visit the website, you are greeted with:

Welcome to the SUPER MEGA ULTRA METAVERSE SUMMIT

Party like it’s 2099 with the world’s largest metaverse conference, with over twenty people confirmed to attend. Get ready to go through an overly complicated sign-up process with zero guidance, and enter the one and only metaverse (apart from Second Life decades ago). All transactions use MetaCoin, a cryptocurrency running on a decentralised network that can be yours for the low price of $0.99 (then $3,000 after gas fees). Are you ready to join the party? 

This parody of the worst of the blockchain metaverse conference events offers the most delicious snark:

Easy to access: Simply buy a VR headset during a semiconductor crisis, and you can party with your friends while jigging in your tiny flat.

Introducing MetaCoin: Escape the banks! All transactions will use MetaCoin, a cryptocurrency that truly democractizes access to finance. Only 70% is owned by the founder.

Enter the metaverse: We have built a metaverse thatrepresenta the future, only there is zero interoperability and we will stop updating it after the weekend.

Among the (fictitious) guest speakers:

Richard Ryder: Sponsoring the event and will send you a follow-up email next week. And the week after.

Sarah Sarahbard: Launched a failed crypto project last month, and is looking to pump up its value before selling her stake.

Derrick Dickard: A futurologist who read about the metaverse on Forbes, and will pretend to be an expert until next year,

Savage, but accurate!

Tony issued a timely commentary on the trend of Horizon Worlds, Rec Room. AltspaceVR, and other metaverse platforms where the avatars lack the lower half of their body, tweeting:

You can read more about Legverse on their official website. Tony is even kind enough to offer a media kit for us bloggers!


Thank you to Tom Ffiske and Tony Vitillo!

P.S. Somebody also messaged me yesterday, saying that Meta had bought Second Life, which of course was an April Fools joke as well!