Imagine the scene. It’s late 2022 / early 2023 at a small web technology meetup, or perhaps a larger conference. Either way, the core of the event is people giving presentations about technology.
Roughly a third to half of the presentations involve some variation of the same phrase.
- “I can be found on Twitter at <username> and Mastodon at <other username>.”
- “I’m still on Twitter, but I think we’re all moving to Mastodon now, right?”
- “My Mastodon handle is <blah>, and I still have an account on The Bird Site — assuming it’s still working.”
Questions abound among the discussions during breaks between talks. Who’s moved over to Mastodon? To which server? How are you finding it? Which client app should I use?
The scene has played out for me several times over the last few months. This blog post is my extended answer to the questions. My short answer, though, is something along the lines of “<deflated sigh>… I just can’t be bothered, really.”
I stopped finding Twitter useful years ago, which was a disappointing development. When I was still early in my career, Twitter was a great way of keeping track of news from the tech world. Various weekly newsletters and digests have sprung up as well, and they’re still useful. But Twitter had an immediacy that couldn’t be replicated. It was the only form of social media I used (no Facebook account, no Instagram, no flavour-of-the-month).
But over the years, the signal-to-noise ratio diminished. I was no longer fairly quickly finding out the latest info. Instead I ended up wading past the repetitious jokes, the seemingly-endless outrage about trivial items, and whatever new sadistic UX experiment Twitter HQ had unleashed upon their userbase. Again.
Basically, scrolling through Twitter had started to become a chore, not an enjoyable distraction. But hey, at least I could still egotistically share links to projects I’d done or things I’d written, and get some decent feedback on them. Then that started to diminish as well. The same noise I was experiencing was happening to everyone else as well. Which meant that things I was proud of barely even got seen, let alone shared.
Eventually I just stopped checking. This wasn’t a grand, public “I’m quitting forever!!1!” moment. Just a quiet withdrawal from the regular stream of updates. If I wrote a blog post I’d still tweet about it, and I kept Direct Message notifications enabled because it was the only method of contact I had for some people.
After the grand takeover by Sink Man, I grabbed an export of all my Twitter data. (Hilariously, the people panicking over the service potentially failing caused a rush on data exports… which in turn made the export service slower, which fuelled more worry in a vicious cycle. My “within 24 hours” export took 6 days to be ready.) I ran some of the JSON files through this handy Observable notebook to get an analysis. Looking at my tweets per month, it’s pretty obvious where I stopped checking it regularly.
(For the record, I have never liked Voldemusk — who I’m avoiding referencing by name to hopefully not activate the troll army. But my personal rants about it would fill a separate blog post, and the world doesn’t need yet more opinion pieces on that topic.)
Get to the point, please
Right, umm, where was I going with this? Oh yes, Mastodon.
I did my main withdrawal from Twitter 5 years ago. Maybe once every few months I’d open it up due to a DM notification, have a quick scroll, and remember why I stopped. I’ve unfortunately lost some knowledge about what people are up to, but overall I’ve been a lot happier without it. I’d even put the app on my phone into a folder by itself just titled “No!”.
So with all that in mind, why would I join Mastodon? From what I hear, the signal-to-noise ratio is much better at the moment. But I suspect that’s only because it’s still new and fresh and exciting. Twitter was like that too, once. On the whole, people are still working it out and finding their feet — this glory time won’t last, and the noise will return.
Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic without having even tried it. But… <deflated sigh>… I just can’t be bothered, really.