On a slack I frequent daily, someone asked a question in the #watercooler channel we use for general conversation.
Genuinely curious to hear others’ experiences: is there a subset of tech Twitter/Mastodon where the dynamic is more conversational and less, uhh… “/dev/null with likes”? Trying to suss out for myself whether I should treat it mentally as more of a news feed or an interactive environment.
It was good timing for this because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my presence on social media and how I use the internet in general.
I’m one of those folks who’s basically off Twitter unless someone sends me a specific link and I don’t have a personal Facebook account. As for Mastodon, I use it a lot like a microblog a la Tumblr. The instance I’m on has a 10k character count limit so I can get a whole, fully-formed thought out (mine posts average around 500 characters). I do indeed talk about tech stuff and I do have cool conversations with folks on occasion. It’s more measured and slow due to the nature of the platform, though that suits me just fine. I’ve muted all the shitposting because that’s not why I’m there. In other words, there are definitely pocket universes where real conversation still happens on the internet.
Mastodon in particular doesn’t have any dark patterns (or any algorithms for that matter) that work to keep me sucked in and feed any FOMO I have. This makes it easier to close it down when other things need to be in focus. These days I find myself interacting with Slack folks (like we used to do on forums), using Mastodon for microblogging (hello LiveJournal and Tumblr), and putting long form thoughts out via blog (I see you hanging in there Blogger) and pretending it’s all an improved UI on 2000’s era functionality.
This way of using the internet has been an evolution in my thinking and, in many ways, a reclaiming over the last year. Actually, when I think about it, the real sea change for me in my attitude about social media was after reading “Deep Work” by Cal Newport followed up by my recent move that kept me offline by necessity. The book got me thinking and assessing and the time away allowed the perspective to see what I valued in my online time and where I really wanted to spend my energies.
At the end of the day, I’ve changed my default interaction with the platforms as output rather than input, quieting my feeds to a slow trickle. Because I have gotten responses from folks telling me that the stuff I write about hits important notes for them, I continue to share things, but I do what I can to put the whole thought together, provide context, and make it as meaningful to myself as it may be to them.
I’m pretty pleased with the changes I’ve made. The internet feels useful again, my time doesn’t feel wasted at the end of the day, and sometimes I am even of use to others who follow me. That’s really all I ask for in such a powerful tool.