UPDATED! Editorial: It’s Time for a Complete Reset on How I Use Social Media

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

Early this morning, I deleted my Reddit account.

As many of you already know, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts in 2018, followed by moving away from Facebook-now-Meta’s virtual reality hardware completely (I now have a Valve Index at home and an HTC Vive Pro 2 headset at work, both using SteamVR).

And last April, when Elon Musk first floated the idea of buying Twitter, I began to reassess my use of that social media platform, too. I set up my first account on the federated, free-and-open-source (FOSS) microblogging platform Mastodon. So, by the time Elon strode into Twitter headquarters as its new CEO in the fall, I pulled the plug on Twitter as well. (Based on some good advice I got from infosec folks on Mastodon, I simply deleted all my tweets and chats, then left my account empty, without actually deleting it. Every so often, they appear to reload all my deleted tweets from a backup, but I just run TweetDelete again to batch delete everything.)

As for YouTube, I only follow selected channels via the excellent Feedbin app, which I had originally written about here (note that since that was written last October, I decided to unfollow everybody on Twitter completely; I only use Feedbin for newsletters and YouTube channels now). The biggest advantage to this setup (and well worth the subscription cost) is that I am no longer a slave to YouTube’s recommendation algorithm and its incessant, irritating inserted advertising!

Clubhouse lived and died and was deleted from my iPhone over the course of a year (but it was fun while it lasted, and a much-needed outlet during the pandemic lockdown).

Which means, that as of Valentine’s Day 2023, the only corporate-run social media I still used on a daily basis was Reddit. So, why did I finally get rid of that?

It’s a bit of a story. But essentially, something happened this morning that was my wake-up call that I was spending far too much time on Reddit.

Although I had been aware of Reddit for many years, I only bothered to set up an account in 2018. At first, I barely used the service, but I did notice that, as I moved away from Facebook and Twitter, I was spending more and more time on Reddit.

Originally, I had subscribed to all the virtual reality and metaverse-related subreddits (what Reddit calls communities). For a little while last year, I was glued to the daily post on the r/worldnews subreddit about the Russia-Ukraine war. And, of course, Reddit was a place where I followed the latest news about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Over time, I found that I was spending less time on those communities, and more time on what I call the snark subreddits—those communities which have spring up around a public figure (usually a celebrity or an “influencer”), full of sarcastic and often-hilariously-on-point criticism of their posts on Instagram and other social media sites, as well as newsmedia coverage about them.

One of those snark subs was called Hollis Uncensored, and it focused on the once-married (and now divorced) influencer couple of Dave and Rachel Hollis. Rachel had lucked into becoming an Instagram influencer and conference speaker, and had a popular book published, titled Girl, Wash Your Face. Dave, who was a successful executive at Disney, decided to leave corporate life and join the influencer/speaker/writer market with Rachel. They worked together (including advising married couples on their relationships) right up until the shock announcement that they were separating, which of course got some people quite upset that they were marketing themselves as marriage “experts”.

After the split, it wasn’t long before Dave Hollis hooked up with Heidi Lane Powell, a fitness influencer who was divorced from Chris Powell (that couple hosted the reality TV show Extreme Weight Loss for several years). In much the same way as Dave had latched onto his (ex-)wife Rachel’s business as an influencer/speaker, so he became a part of Heidi’s work and personal life as her business partner and her boyfriend. Seeing a pattern here? So did we, and we gloried in snarking about it!

Well, after breaking up and getting back together again several times, recently Dave and Heidi announced that they were separating as a couple (again). During all this, Dave had to abruptly cancel a men’s conference we was trying to sell, when he went for treatment at an addictions centre in California—something which Heidi accidentally let slip during a snapshot of a Zoom meeting posted to her social media, where a particularly sharp-eyed snarker did a reverse image search and matched the furniture and decorations in the room Dave was speaking from, with the treatment facility! There were also several frankly embarrassing attempts by David, coaxed on by Heidi, to participate in things like a triathlon (which he bailed out of) and a bodybuilding competition (where he came in last for his age range).

Needless to say, all this provided ample opportunity for the snarkers in the r/hollisuncensored subreddit! Every evening, before going to bed, I would lie on my sofa with my iPad, catching up on Hollis Uncensored and my other favourite snark subreddits. It was like I was sitting at the mean girls’ table in high school, gossiping and giggling about what so-and-so did to such-and-such!

However, over time, I noticed a disturbing pattern in my Reddit behaviour. Often, I would go back and forth between various subreddits (including my current favourite, the cryptosnark community r/Buttcoin), looking for new items to comment on. I would often stay up past my regular bedtime, restlessly checking for the latest snark, rechecking to see whether my comments had been upvoted. I was becoming addicted.

This morning, while brewing a pot of coffee and getting ready to head off to work, I signed into Hollis Uncensored, to read the shocking news that Dave Hollis had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Variety broke the story last night:

Dave Hollis’ death was a wake-up call that I was wasting entirely too much time snarking on Reddit

Dave was only 47 years old, and he left behind his ex-wife Rachel and their four children (the youngest of whom is only 5), plus his ex-girlfriend Heidi and her four children (from two previous relationships). It turns out that Dave had had a heart condition, and he had actually been hospitalized recently for it while attending some sort of influencers’ Mastermind summit in California (an event that seemed to bring together all the toxic-positivity grifters).

There has been much anguish expressed today over at r/hollisuncensored, and not a little soul-searching. Most people are still processing, and still in shock. Suddenly, all that snark about Dave’s, Rachel’s, and Heidi’s antics doesn’t seem that funny anymore. Some have suggested that the existing comment threads about Dave be deleted, even the whole subreddit be shut down, while others have pushed back on that idea. One much-upvoted comment in the aftermath of this shocking news reads as follows:

None of us wanted this, it was about holding [those] people, who teach on well-being and health while publicly doing harmful things, to account. It’s very sad. And [it] goes to show why we should take addiction and mental health seriously, from experts, not this self-help grift. Dave was a victim of self-help culture as much as a perpetrator of it. It’s very, very sad. I hope those around him who are also struggling from addiction and other mental health issues take this as a wake-up call that they need to seek professional, evidenced based support, to commit to it privately, [and] not to teach on it [un]til a long time after their own healing. Addiction and anguish are not something you can handle by changing your mindset or moving your body and journaling. This constant whirling around of epiphanies and anguish makes you sicker and further away from being ok. Do not follow self helpers, course creators selling no product, attend[ing] these conferences, masterminds etc.

May his family have comfort.

For me, this was my clear sign from the universe that I was spending far, far too much time on Reddit, and I just decided to delete my Reddit account this morning, cold turkey. (My previous posts and comments will remain up, but without my username attached to them. As I did before I set up a Reddit account, I could still go in and view the communities I used to be a member of, but I can no longer comment or post unless I set up a new account, which I have zero intention of doing.)

So, what have I learned from the past few years, and from today?

I have learned that I have a lamentable tendency to become addicted to social media, particularly in those apps like Facebook and Twitter, where the algorithm is specifically designed to keep you scrolling through your feed (all the better to strip-mine your personal data and sell it to advertisers, my dear!). Even worse, I tend to use social media as an escape from facing the own problems and issues in my own life. It’s time for me to stop discussing and snarking about other people’s problems, and focus on my own!

I now consider it unlikely that I will use any corporate-run social media in future (except in cases like YouTube, where it is effectively filtered via Feedbin to avoid the recommendation algorithm). My experience over the past few years with social media has been an eye-opener, and it will inform my decisions and actions going forward. I used to avidly seek out new social networks to join, dating back to my time on Friendster twenty years ago; now, I tend to run in the other direction!

I originally looked at Mastodon as a replacement app for Twitter, and I had put a lot of my effort into building a social network there over the past ten months. The community there is great; overall, they’re a high-quality bunch of people. However, I have also decided to take a mental health break from Mastodon, too. Even though it was a far better place than the toxic dumpster fire which Twitter has become under Elon Musk, I am seriously starting to question why I feel the need to use any social media at all.

I still have and will continue to run my blog and my Discord server, but I do feel it’s time for me to step back and do a complete and utter reset of how I use social media, going forward. I’m probably going to have to fight through some tough Reddit withdrawal symptoms! But I do think this is the best step forward for me.

Wish me luck!

UPDATE Feb. 15th, 2023: Well, I can confirm that I am definitely struggling with Reddit withdrawal! I did give in to temptation at lunch today at work, and I poked my nose back into Hollis Uncensored today, and somebody had just posted this well-written explanation, which I share in full:

There is a rift in the snark community right now, and it’s important to clear things up. All points are up for discussion, because discussion is the basis of our community. (If you don’t want to read it all, the gist is in the first and last paragraphs)

It is possible to be respectful of someone’s grieving family and friends without sugarcoating their actions. Like all humans, Dave was more than a one-dimensional character.

So here goes:

  1. A person’s death does not negate their bad behavior and the effects of it. Dave had a massive role in the toxic positivity self-help world where one of his harmful acts was pushing vulnerable people to pay for his advice rather than go to a professional (just look at the things he said about his book while berating his followers during pancake-gate). He sold this guru advice while in active addiction and spiraling mental health. He sold a very harmful lie, and addiction was an integral part of that. Addiction and mental health concerns are unavoidable topics of discussion here. He also knowingly sold a couple’s retreat for THOUSANDS of dollars to desperate couple’s while knowing his own marriage was on the rocks, and he had no business giving out advice. There are so many more problematic things, which is why this sub exists.
  2. His children and family are victims in more than one way. During his meltdown, he repeatedly denied his child food (who was too young to make food for herself) for HOURS, while he ignored her, snapped at her, and badmouthed her. He appeared to be under the influence yet again, which is a relevant and important observation because he was responsible for caring for vulnerable children at the time. That is child endangerment. That’s not excessive speculation; that’s a fact based on the definition of the words. Beyond that, he was repeatedly and relentlessly condescending to Rachel and Heidi. Every time he showed his kids on social media, he barely engaged with them and was hyperfocused on how he appeared. He used his kids as content. Personally, I believe that came out of a place of deep discontent and poor self-image, but that does not negate the effect it had on his family. We begged him to pay attention to his kids and engage with them, and we hoped he would. We were rooting for him when he got help for his addiction, and we were worried about his mental and physical health as they appeared to decline lately. I believe he genuinely loved his kids, but someone can love their kids and still do harm.
  3. As I touched on above, the general consensus is that we don’t armchair-diagnose HOWEVER there is a difference between saying someone is XYZ and saying we’re concerned because someone is exhibiting traits of XYZ and is behaving in a harmful way. A good example of this is Heidi’s disordered eating. It is okay to say that (from what we are able to see) she is exercising excessively without taking in enough calories, appears to be increasingly unhealthy, and appears to be engaging in textbook body-checking behaviors. This is an incredibly important observation because she has vulnerable people paying her for workout and eating plans. We are also genuinely worried about her health, just like we worried about Dave. However, as much as we worry about her health, we are more worried about the thousands of vulnerable people she influences. It is not worth sparing the feelings of one person as that cost of so many others.
  4. We held Dave accountable for his actions but also hoped he would get legitimate help and get out of the scamming guru world he was so deeply in. I think most of us still hold that hope for Heidi, too, but she is victimizing others and we shouldn’t stop talking about that. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible for Rachel because she doesn’t exhibit the naivete of Heidi and Dave. Part of the absurdity of the Hollis/Powell crew is that they will rake you for thousands of dollars, selling you on their all-knowingness while having very basic “epiphanies” (a.k.a. things that most of us learned between middle school and college) right in front of your eyes and they don’t see how incongruous that is.

Ultimately, there is an overlap here of traditional snark and genuine accountability and hope. That’s the point. While there is levity in joking about their antics, this isn’t just for fun. There HAS to be levity, because the consequences of their actions are very dark. That being said, there is always the underlying goal here, which is to bring light to their scamming and help prevent them from taking advantage of others. We hope that that includes the perpetrators getting help because we do care about these people, but our priority is in caring for their victims.

The key part is in the last paragraph. There is indeed an overlap in the snarker communities between mean-girl, traditional snark, and the act of holding influencers like this accountable for their words and deeds. Do I feel guilty that I participated in the snark about Dave? Yes, a little. But, at the same time, we snarkers were playing a role in educating ourselves about people who grift and scam, in order to help identify the behaviour in others, and to help those who were (and often, still are) victimized by such “influencers.” It was also an education in the dynamics of parasocial relationships on social media, and at look at those people who choose to live in the public eye, for better or for worse.

UPDATE February 21st, 2023: Public relations consultant Molly McPherson chats about Dave Hollis’ death and its impact on the Hollis Uncensored subreddit with fellow podcaster Emily Rose, in the most recent episode of Molly’s podcast, Indestructible PR with Molly McPherson. You can listen to the 44-minute podcast (which includes a fascinating general discussion about parasocial relationships) on Apple or Spotify, or however you consume your podcast content.

Molly McPherson’s podcast about Dave Hollis and the Hollis Uncensored community

UPDATE April 26th, 2023: An update on Dave Hollis’ death from People magazine, which was published a couple of days ago:

The cause of death for Dave Hollis, author and former executive for Disney, has been confirmed.

Hollis, who died in February at the age of 47, had lethal amounts of cocaine, fentanyl and alcohol in his system when he died, according to an autopsy from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, which was obtained by PEOPLE.

The motivational author and father of four was unresponsive when authorities arrived at the Hays County home, and he was pronounced dead a short time later, the autopsy says. Hollis’ death has been ruled an accident.

Hollis had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, according to the Medical Examiner, in addition to high blood pressure and depression.

Sad news, but not that surprising. Some of the comments on the r/HollisUncensored subreddit have been scathing:

And he [Dave Hollis] wanted people to pay him to tell them how to live their lives to the fullest. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. F*cking hypocrites.

And herein lies (IMHO) the entire reason for the existence of this page. Sure, lots of people are struggling in this way, but they aren’t charging people money to attend their own self-help masterminds. He was a fraud and a grifter and it’s a fact now, not just Reddit speculation. Reddit always knows.

Same way he and Rach [Rachel Hollis] made money giving marriage and relationship advice while theirs was falling apart! F*cking frauds!

Oh, and yes, I’m still hanging out on Reddit. Some habits are harder to break than others. 😉 and the Hollis Uncensored subreddit has been the perfect place to process this most recent news and its aftermath.

UPDATED: Twitter, Mastodon, and Ned Segal’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

PLEASE NOTE: You can find all my previous blogposts about Twitter and Mastodon here (including, of course, this one; just scroll down for the rest).

Over the past six months, I have become enamoured with Mastoson (picture by doodlebrink)

It is a grey, sullen Thursday afternoon up here in Winnipeg, and I am taking a sick day from work, feeling both literally and figuratively under the weather. I slept in till the crack of noon, dragged my raggedy ass out of bed, and my only plans for today (other than pounding out this somewhat cranky editorial while coughing up a lung) are to go to the pharmacy. So be it.

I have other blogposts that are simmering away on the back burner (go ahead, call the Metaphor Police, I dare you), but today I wanted to write about the big news in the world of social media, which is, of course, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. (Standard disclaimer: Auntie Ryan has OPINIONS, and is not afraid to share them!)

Six months ago, when Elon first announced that he was buying the popular microblogging platform Twitter, I decided to set up a couple of accounts on Mastodon, a federated microblogging platform, to get a feel for the place and to set up a Plan B in case I needed to flee Twitter.

Some Mastodon statistics at the six-month mark: I have made just over 1,000 posts, and I am following a little over 700 people, of whom 343 are following me back (many added within the past week). If you follow me, I will follow you back, unless you have a blank profile (i.e., no icon, no banner, no profile, no posts, no comments).

My Mastodon profile

As for Twitter, I have now unfollowed all but 25 people, plus I am following about 125 people using the highly-recommended website and app Feedbin (which I wrote about previously here). I have installed a plug-in for my WordPress blog to automatically post any new blogposts to my Mastodon account, and I am also using Renato Lond Cerqueira’s Mastodon-Twitter crossposter website to automatically crosspost any public posts (or “toots”, as they tend to call them in Mastodon) to my Twitter account. I find that between Feedbin and these two other crossposters, I have no need to actually go onto Twitter, and be subject to its algorithmic whims, trending hashtags, and advertising!

If you’ve been following the news media or social media at all this week, you will already be well aware of how things have changed (for the worse) over at Twitter since Elon trudged onsite, ridiculously lugging a kitchen sink, with a team of Tesla engineers in tow: the firings and resignations of most of the executive team; reports of workers being forced to work 12-hour days, 7 days a week, at the risk of losing their jobs if they do not meet artificially-imposed deadlines; major advertising firms advising their clients to pause advertising as Elon himself retweets QAnon conspiracy theories in response to Hillary Clinton, and bargains with Stephen King about the cost of a blue check mark (Twitter’s user profile verification symbol):

I could go on and on, but you get the idea: Elon is sowing chaos, and with recent reports that he is planning to fire half of Twitter’s workforce, the microblogging platform seems to be turning into a very different, and very worrying, place.

As I said, I was part of the wave of Twitter immigrants who came over to Mastodon six months ago, which led to a bunch of new users. The events of the past week have led to almost 200,000 new Mastodon accounts being set up October 27th, 2022, an influx that temporarily bogged down many Mastodon servers (called “instances”), and forced instance admins to scramble to add new servers and tighten up the code which runs the Mastodon service. Despite these pressures, I have found that the service works well, a testament to its distributed, federated nature.

I think I’m moving rapidly from bargaining to depression in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief, about the impending demise of Twitter (or at least, the Twitter I knew and loved). And I am still trying to decide what to do about my stub account over at Twitter, although I am now leaning towards deactivating my account and deleting it completely. The Washington Post has an excellent article outlining how to back up your Twitter data, delete your tweets, lock down your Twitter privacy and anti-harassment settings, and even deactivate and delete your Twitter account (if you hit a paywall, here’s an archived version). I will let you know what I decide, but do not be surprised if I leave Twitter completely by year’s end.

As for Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s version of the Clubhouse social audio app, I am now firmly of the opinion that social audio as a whole is dead. When I first joined Clubhouse in February, 2021, it was at the height of the hype cycle, with people desperately trying to obtain an invitation to join. Now, the few times I do go onto Clubhouse, it’s crickets. And, by and large, I have found the same with Twitter Spaces. Most social audio spaces seem to be about sports or crypto, and I’m not especially interested in either, so I will pass.

Ironically, it was as a result of a Twitter Space that I participated in that I became acquainted with Ned Segal, the Chief Financial Officer who was recently fired by Elon Musk (he still has his Twitter account up, and is still following me). I was sorry to see him go; in my chat with him, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and he posted an awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe to his Twitter, which I share below (in case he decides to shut down his Twitter account, which, after what happened to him, I wouldn’t blame him in the slightest for doing):

Ned Segal’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

(Note: sorry it’s not in metric; Ned’s an American! You’ll have to do the conversions yourself.)

Image taken from Ned’s tweet

In a large bowl, mix in 2 1/4 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking soda

Beat in with handheld in order:

  • 1 cup of room-temperature butter (don’t melt it)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 room-temperature eggs
  • 3 cups of Nestlé’s Tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips (feel free to substitute if you’re boycotting Nestlé for being an evil company)

Put the bowl in the fridge to cool for a few hours.

Place heaping tablespoons of batter onto a baking tray, they should be tall, not flat or wide.

Bake for 9 minutes at 365°F. Every oven is different, so this is trial and error.

Remove from oven and sprinkle immediately with sea salt (I actually cheat, and add a bit of salt to the bowl before refrigeration).

Remove the cookies from the tray to cool (although they are also delicious warm, especially with a glass of cold milk to wash them down!).

I leave you with my initial thoughts and impressions of Mastodon, after having used it for six months. I have, by and large, found the difference between Twitter and Mastodon to be like night and day; I find I get much more engagement on my Mastodon posts, even though I have five times as many people following me on Twitter! (I also suspect that Twitter is probably downplaying or not displaying my posts about Mastodon, which might factor into this.)

I have found the people I interact with on Mastodon to be interesting, intelligent, lively, considerate, and (like me) opinionated. However, you will have to do a bit of work to get up to speed, like setting up a full profile with hashtags, posting an introduction post tagged #introduction, and actively searching for other people who share your interests to follow (again, using hashtags, or looking at who other people follow). I have made the conscious decision to boldly follow as many different kinds of people as possible, and I have found that when I favourite or boost somebody else’s Mastodon post, I inevitably go read their profile, and land up following them! I can always prune back later.

I have also set up my main Mastodon account so that it is “locked”, which means that other users have to make a request to follow me (I accept these requests 99% of the time, denying them only if they have zero information in their profile: no icon, no banner, no profile, no public posts, no public comments, zip, nada, bupkis). Like Twitter, the more people you follow on Mastodon, the livelier your feed! But keep in mind that there is no automatic recommendation algorithm like Twitter (some would see that as a good thing).

The two biggest issues you might face in getting started with Mastodon is picking an instance/server to join, and picking a mobile client (although you can certainly use the default Web page; it even has a TweetDeck-style interface if you like multiple columns, with your favourite hashtags in a separate column!). For example, while I do have an account on the https://scholar.social instance, just to be able to see the local feed on that server, I have my main account set up on the biggest and most popular Mastodon instance, https://mastodon.social.

I use an iPhone and an iPad, and I have been very happy with a Mastodon client called Toot! It is very intelligently designed, and it makes clever use of animations in particular (you can turn this off, of course). My favourite part of using the Toot! Mastodon client on my iPad is this cute animation when it takes more than a few seconds to post a toot (which has been happening a lot this week, while Mastodon accepts a surge of new users). You can even toss the spiralling notes around with your finger! (I know, I know, I’m easily amused.)

One of the features of the iOS Mastodon app Toot!, which I did not know about until very recently, is that you can follow the local and federated feeds for a Mastodon instance without having to set up an account on that instance (I’m doing that right now with https://fediscience.org). If you favourite or boost a toot on an instance you’re not on, up pops a menu of your existing profiles to select one. Very cool, and it’s a great way to keep track of what’s going on in the local feed of other Mastodon instances, and (of course) finding new people to follow!

However, one of the drawbacks of Toot! is that sometimes I miss requests from other people to follow me, which can be annoying. This is easily resolved by using an alternative Mastodon client (many of which are free or cheap), or the web interface. (And, of course, you can set up your Mastodon profile so that people can follow you without sending you a request.)

So, that’s it for today. As I wrote previously, I’m still percolating. This whole Twitter/Elon Musk situation has really made me think about my social media habits, and I can see that I still need to make some more adjustments.

I love Mastodon and the community I have found there, and I’m not going back to Twitter.

UPDATE Nov. 5th, 2022: Late Thursday evening, I decided to deactivate my Twitter account, which I did Friday evening. The final straw for me was Elon’s truly appalling letter which was shared on social media and via the news media, outlining how the staff layoffs were to take place:

I vividly remember the day when I went through something like this at my first job after graduating from library school, working for Geac, a now-long-closed library automation firm. In my case, in my department of six people, two people were called into the manager’s office, one by one, and fired. I was the third person to be called in, as the first two were cleaning out their desks. I was told that I could stay. After that, I left as soon as I could, and I swore I would only work in a unionized job (and I am).

Hence, my decision to delete most of my tweets, and deactivate my account (it will be deleted in 30 days, according to Twitter). Elon Musk can go fuck himself.

Editorial: Between Mastodon and Feedbin, I Now Have All the Tools I Need to Avoid Using Twitter While Following People’s Tweets

It’s time for a rethink on how I use Twitter (image source: PC Magazine)

As longtime readers of my blog know full well, I have already severed all ties to Meta hardware and software, even going so far as to vote with my wallet and replace my trusty Oculus Rift PCVR headset at home with a Valve Index. (My final link to Meta was cut in August 2022, when I replaced my work VR headset, a second Oculus Rift, with an HTC Vive Pro 2.) This means that I am not on any of Meta’s social media: no Facebook, no Instagram, no Whatsapp. I shut down my Facebook account a couple of years ago, asking the company to delete all the personal data it had collected on me. I am done.

So, when Elon Musk announced earlier this year that he was going to take over Twitter, I already had some experience in cutting social media platforms out of my life. I responded by setting up an account on Mastodon, which I talk about here, here, and here.

Mastodon is a federated, FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) microblogging app, quite similar to Twitter, but it is decentralized, and not subject to the capricious whims of billionaires! It’s free, but I choose to support it financially through Patreon. 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:

I unfollowed 90% of the people I was following on Twitter, sending messages to most of them that I was moving to Mastodon, and inviting them to join me. Of course, most didn’t. I get it; change is hard.

So, while I was now posting to my Twitter feed automatically via my blog and via my new Mastodon account, I still found myself having to sign in to Twitter to follow certain people. I grew weary of dealing with Twitter’s algorithmic feed, with its pernicious advertising, and its suggested posts and topics, and its trending hashtags (usually an echo chamber for whatever the latest outrage happens to be). I looked for a solution.

I found it via the recommendation of someone I follow on Mastodon, named Per Axbom. who had posted a link to a blogpost he had written, titled Why I left algorithm-based social media and what happened next. I read about the process Per took to free himself from algorithmically-driven social media and take control over his own newsfeed, and one of the tools he talked about was Feedbin.

Feedbin is a newsreader with a website and associated mobile apps (to set up an account costs US$5 per month or US$50 per year), but it’s more than just that! In addition to following RSS newsfeeds, you can also use it to follow people on Twitter, as well as your favourite YouTube channels. In addition, it gives you a special email address to be used in subscribing to your newsletters, so that they feed into Feedbin, too. You can also use it to follow podcasts. I’ve been using it for a month, and it’s great!

Here are some of the features:

Twitter: Stop mindlessly scrolling through tweets. Feedbin fully unpacks media-rich tweets. If a tweet links to an article, Feedbin will attempt to load the full article and display it alongside the tweet.

YouTube: Follow your favorite creators, with channels and playlists. There’s no algorithm or confusion about what you have already watched, just the videos from your favorite creators in chronological order.

Newsletters: Get newsletters out of your inbox and into Feedbin. Every pro account gets a unique email address to subscribe to and follow newsletters.

Updated Articles: Articles are updated whenever the original changes, so you don’t miss any important changes. You can even see the differences to know what changed.

Full Text: Feedbin can extract the full content of an article for feeds that only offer partial-content. This way you can keep reading without leaving.

Search: Feedbin supports a powerful and expressive search syntax to find exactly what you’re looking for. Save frequent searches to always have the results a click away.

So now I only post to my Twitter account via Mastodon, and I only read tweets from people I follow via Feedbin. This means that I spend next to zero time actually on Twitter—no advertising, no trending hashtags, no outrage machine! My Twitter feed on Feedbin also pulls up any items retweeted by people I follow, and in many cases, any linked articles in the tweets will have their full text loaded, saving me a click. It’s not the same as quitting Twitter entirely, but until more people come to their senses (and when/if Elon Musk drives Twitter into the ground), it’s a fair compromise.

As for YouTube, I can finally browse through only the channels I follow, without YouTube’s irritating suggestions for what it thinks I want to watch next. (And suggestions of music mixes based on my YouTube Music listening habits.) And no advertising unless, of course, the videomaker has a sponsorship in the video! I may never visit the YouTube website, or use the YouTube mobile apps, again. I should have done this years ago, folks.

Feedbin is the greatest thing since sliced bread, in my opinion, and well worth the subscription in alleviating the aggravation of having to deal with Twitter and YouTube algorithms! And, if Elon Musk goes through with his plans to lay off 75% of Twitter’s staff and the platform becomes overrun with toxic content and spam, I already have one foot firmly planted in Mastodon, and between it and Feedbin, I barely have to interact with Twitter at all, aside from keeping my account there.

If Elon Musk buying Twitter doesn’t sit right with you, there are tools and alternatives!

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.


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—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.