I Have Moved from Twitter to Mastodon

Image courtesy of Stux and 0xd9a on Mastodon: used with permission

Reacting to the unexpected announcement last week about Elon Musk buying Twitter, I have been working on a near-seamless transition away from Twitter to Mastodon, an open-source, federated system of microblogging servers. Just as any Twitter user can follow, mute, and block any other Twitter user, any Mastodon user can follow, mute, and block any other user on any other Mastodon server (called an instance). Here’s a handy seven-minus YouTube video which explains Mastodon and this federated system, called a “fediverse” (please note this video is three years old, so the stats given are out of date):

I have unfollowed hundreds of people on Twitter, sending out messages explaining what I was doing, and I was met with positive responses overall. And I was surprised and delighted that 20-30 people have actually followed me over to Mastodon, setting up new accounts! (If you’re interested in joining us on this adventure, please go to joinmastodon.org, pick an instance to create an account on, and follow me at @ryanschultz@mastodon.social. I will follow you back!)

In only one week, my new profile on the Mastodon instance mastodon.social has gained 50 followers!

I’m not leaving Twitter entirely; I know that many of my over 1,500 Twitter followers will not make the switch. Therefore, I will be (automatically) cross-posting new posts to my blog (like this one!), and I have set up a system where public “toots” (what Mastodon calls tweets) will also automatically be cross-posted to my Twitter account. I just tested it out this evening, and it works like a charm!

So, over the next few months, I will be spending less and less time on Twitter, and more and more time on Mastodon. Mastodon is actually part of a whole suite of interconnected, open-source federated software programs; for more info, please go to https://fediverse.info.

One thing I already love about Mastodon is NO ADVERTISING! Most Mastodon instance owners have a Patreon or Ko-Fi page where you can provide one-time or monthly financial support if you use and like the service. Another thing I like is the community! There are some really interesting people doing some wonderful things on Mastodon, and already I am following my first hundred people!

I have feeling that many other people will also be exploring their options, now that Twitter is owned by a rather capricious billionaire!

Every time I see this picture, it makes me laugh

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.

I Have Joined Clubhouse (Be Afraid…BE. VERY. AFRAID.)

The Clubhouse logo

Well, it finally happened: I caved, and I joined Clubhouse. (God help us all.)

If you know nothing else about me, know this: I have been a lifelong tire-kicker of social networks of all kinds over the years, starting with Friendster and MySpace (I wrote about my many misadventures with Friendster here and here). I was an early adopter of Facebook and countless other social networks (remember Tribe? Hi5? Orkut?!?? Trust, Auntie Ryan was on them all, sweetheart). I was an early adopter of Flickr way, waaay back, when they were still a tiny Vancouver startup. And I was also a part of the whole wild, crazy Google+ rollercoaster saga, from beginning to bitter end.

So this is not my first time at the rodeo! Far from it. If my past experience with Friendster, Flickr, Facebook and its ilk repeats itself, I am in for a head-first, deep dive into Clubhouse! (I may not resurface for weeks, people. Google+ basically took over my life for months in 2011.)

Be afraid…BE. VERY. AFRAID.

I have lived and learned, made many mistakes (which I hope I will not repeat this time around), and basically, I have become rather bitter, cynical and jaded about it all. 😉

What had seemed like such good, clean, harmless fun back in those halcyon MySpace, Friendster, and Orkut days has turned into something more suspect, more sinister, more polarizing and divisive, and more weaponized (and yes, I do think I have some form of Facebook PTSD, which tends to colour my perspective).

Therefore, I am now much more reserved and cautious when it comes to new social networks and social media platforms. In fact, at the very end of January, when there was such a big fuss on Twitter about Elon Musk hosting a room in Clubhouse, I tweeted:

I am following all the chatter on Twitter about Elon Musk and Clubhouse, and half of me is feeling FOMO, and the other half is thinking: do I *really* want to join yet another social network that is going to get worse the more it opens up from its exclusive, invite-only phase?

However, when an acquaintance on Twitter posted about a new virtual worlds discussion group starting up in Clubhouse tomorrow night, I was in like a dirty shirt! (Thanks to Shawn Whiting for creating this new group, and thank you to the kind person who shared one of her precious Clubhouse invites with me. so I could take part!)

The tweet that sealed my fate: Now I *had* to get into Clubhouse!

So, yes, I am excited, but I am also cautious and wary (and no, please do not ask me for an invitation to join; I only have two and I am saving mine for a few, select people whom I already have in mind). Half of me feels like one of the cool kids, and the other half thinks I have drunk the Kool-Aid. So we’ll see how this all turns out. The sentiment I expressed in my tweet above still holds as true as when I wrote it.

What is Clubhouse? If you have been living under a rock, or (like me) in the frozen Canadian prairie hinterlands, Clubhouse is the latest hot social media platform (currently invite-only, and currently only available for the iPhone) which allows users to connect with each other via voice, create rooms where discussions can take place, and host events. (The Elon Musk event I mentioned above was an interview, where over 5.000 users packed into one room to hear him speak.)

C|Net reporter Erin Carson writes:

Clubhouse, which is still in beta and isn’t yet available to the public, was founded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. It’s an audio-based social platform. You can enter rooms (or create a room) and hear or participate in discussions on topics: how to pitch your startup idea, the future of marriage, whether Clubhouse is getting boring. Rooms generally have speakers, the way conference panels do, and moderators. The conversation is in real time, meaning you can hear folks throwing in their opinions about the subject at hand, and you can raise your hand to toss in yours as well. 

“Imagine if you were in class with everybody in the world,” said Natasha Scruggs, an attorney from Kansas City, Missouri, who’s been on the app for a couple of weeks. 

Clubhouse is the latest manifestation of our desire to connect to each other at a time when social distancing and remaining isolated at home is the new norm. But while videoconferencing services like Zoom have blown up for everyone, Clubhouse’s largest appeal is its exclusivity and its ability to draw in notable figures including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Officially launched less than a year ago, in April 2020, Clubhouse has racked up some truly impressive user growth statistics (source):

  • May 2020: 1,500 users
  • December 2020: 600,000 users
  • January 2021: 2 million users
  • February 2021: 6 million users

In fact, Clubhouse is currently valued at one billion U.S. dollars  (up from $100 million in May 2020), making it a unicorn along with the likes of Uber and Facebook (yes, Mark Zuckerberg is a user, too, and yes, I’m sure that the breakout success of Clubhouse is giving him some sleepless nights).

So, like I said, we’ll see. I hope that I will be able to use Clubhouse to interact more easily with the many wonderful and talented people who work and play in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, in much the same way as I do on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server.