Recent Mastodon vibes

There is a lot being written about Mastodon lately. And it isn’t just being published on Mastodon. Both Time and Wired have published about Mastodon and its creator within the last week.

I wanted to post my current thoughts about the platform to capture the moment. Things are changing rapidly. A lot of things are in flux. A huge number of people and organizations are giving Mastodon – and a slew of other platforms – a try in the wake of Twitter’s transition to Elon Musk’s ownership. I think this is a good thing overall but I’m unsure if this is a good thing for the Mastodon community of users that has created such a wonderful vibe.

Jeremy Keith:

What I’m really struck by is the vibe.

In a nutshell, I’m loving it! It feels …nice.

I was fully expecting Mastodon to be full of meta-discussions about Mastodon, but in the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed people posting about stone circles, astronomy, and—obviously—cats and dogs.

I’ve been using Mastodon for a few years and I’ve found the same thing as Jeremy; there are a lot of really smart people using Mastodon in a variety of fields. And the platform sort of urges people to share more detailed posts than Twitter did. The surge of sign ups has certainly added so many great voices. But a lot of them are bringing to Mastodon what they brought to Twitter – a very unwelcome vibe. At least, unwelcome by me.

Over the last week or two, as millions have signed up to Mastodon, I’m starting to notice a few trends that I really hope go away soon. Two I’m hopeful will go away, one I’m not so sure. They are navel gazing posts, boosts, and vitriol spewed at different factions of people. You know, the types of posts Twitter was known for.

Let’s look at each of these.

The navel gazing posts about Mastodon are inevitable. So many new people signing on and veteran users, like me, wanting to let the new people know about certain things. How things work, what they should try, etc. I think that will die down as more people become familiar with Mastodon. Or, as has happened with surges in the past, a huge percentage of people end up leaving because they forgot how angry they are at Musk and they miss their followers on Twitter.

Boosts! Or, reblogs. To help make people aware of new accounts that have been created or great content that exists across the fediverse people have been boosting posts far more than I’ve ever seen over the last few years. In fact, I’d say the vast majority of my following feed is boosted posts from accounts I do not follow. Many are very welcomed because it exposes me to accounts and content I may have never seen otherwise. But I sure do hope it tapers soon. Fortunately, Mastodon has a mute feature specifically for reblogs. So I can mute an offender without needing to unfollow.

The last class of posts is what really has me worried. As Jeremy pointed out, the vibe of Mastodon has been very cool, chill, friendly, for a long time. For the types of accounts I follow it almost felt like belonging to a maker space. But lately my Explore page on Mastodon has been filled with the exact same types of posts that get engagement on Twitter – those that are filled with politics and hate. People taking shots at other groups of people just to get reblogs and favorites.

So I’ve gone from checking Explore daily to completely ignoring it.

The Mastodon community, across many instances, have worked hard to curate an experience that is welcoming and fun. I think to maintain that many of us will have to be liberal in our blocks and mutes.

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