More social media? Is Mastodon a more-social medium?

Exhuming the First American Mastodon, 1806 painting by Charles Willson PealeYes, I’ve joined my [INSERT NUMBER HERE]th online network of human beings. This one has inspired waves of hope and nostalgia. Unlike Facebook or Twitter and several others I’ve used in the past, “Mastodon” is not owned by a media mogul billionaire or corporation. (The image is “Exhuming the First American Mastodon, 1806 painting by Charles Willson Peale”, via Wikipedia, also showing some collaborative human endeavor.) This Mastodon is an international network of independently owned and operated servers or “instances” that communicate with each other; the software is open-source. Owner/operators apparently can make their own rules (I’m still learning), including whether to block the connection to other servers whose rules contradict their own. The “federated” system appears to be advertising-free, which is a blessed relief from every other medium. People find others of common interests by littering their profiles and introductory posts with hashtagged terms, such as #science #banjo #Virginia #WorldPeace #AnarchoSyndicalist, which will turn up in other users’ searches.

I’m especially interested in whether this new system will lend itself to “hyperlocal” use, like the “We are (yourtown)” Facebook discussions that have grown over the past decade, but outside the “walled garden” of Facebook and its intrusive advertising and algorithm-promoted hierarchies that, like Twitter’s, are a mystery to me, but seem to encourage conflict more than discourse.

On the suggestion of another journalist-turned-professor, I’ve joined the “fediverse” through an instance called Newsie.Social, a crowdfunded site whose “About” page says the following:

Newsie.Social is a mastodon instance for journalists, news-people, journalism educators and comms professionals — although anyone who follows our rules and guidelines is welcome if invited.

Launched and initially funded by Jeff Brown of the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation to give reporters and journalists trusted, fast and well moderated place to call home as part of the ‘Great Twitter Migration

The idea of an ad-free distributed social network without big-tech ownership or tracking sounds great, but it is hard to maintain. That’s why we’re working hard on making Mastodon more widely adopted so you can enjoy its unique features without any interference from big-tech networks or their servers – which are often opaque about what data they collect in order for them operate effectively.

https://newsie.social/about

My name or handle or whatever you call it at Newsie.Social is the same as I’ve been using on Twitter for years, just one syllable short of my full name — https://newsie.social/@BobStep — and for now it also uses the same artistically Photoshopped picture of me playing the mandolin that I’ve also used on Twitter and Facebook.

I haven’t closed my Twitter account, since it’s still where I keep in touch with a few old friends — including a (1999 colleague) media historian and an IBM programmer (1984 colleague) who share their Wordle scores daily, and two college friends from the 1960s — one took me to the 1968 Newport Folk Festival, and I married the other one.

On Twitter I was promiscuous about following professional journalists, musicians, personal friends, my students and teachers, a few government officials, deep thinkers, and people who made me laugh. When Elon Musks’ takeover started to include layoffs, including a friend of mine, I reduced the number of strangers I followed, just to see if my own number of followers would decline. So far, it hasn’t much. My “Followers” peaked at 1,520 or so back when I was teaching and more actively following, tweeting and retweeting. I was never sure why. My “Following” list approached 4,000 at one point. Copied from my profile page today:

2,850 Following

1,511 Followers

Over at Mastodon, which I joined Nov. 13, exploring the new network on a slow week at home led to a lot of verbose posting on my part, experiments with hashtag-marked keywords about things I’m interested in, posting questions about the operation of the network and Mastodon instances, and “boosting” of posts by other people doing the same thing. The result:

365 Posts | 109 Following | 155 Followers

(I’m curious how those links, copied and pasted from my profile page, will function once I post this to my blog.)

In a surprising sideline to all this social-media introspection, I saw a mention that Tumblr is adopting some aspect of Mastodon. I haven’t really absorbed what that means yet. Except for noticing when a musician friend or two used the system, I haven’t paid much attention to Tumblr, dismissing it years ago as “yet another blogging platform” when I already had other online spaces, including blogs on WordPress (https://jheroes.com) and Blogger (https://boblog.blogspace.com)

But today I felt nostalgic, and dredged up the password to a Tumblr blog I whipped up as a classroom demo during my last year teaching a Web Production course before I retired from the university. I don’t know whether I’ll add to it, or just leave it here as a Web cobweb. I think I chose the name as a reflection of my “too many blogs” situation:
https://www.tumblr.com/stepno-blog-blog

Meanwhile, this post here on WordPress is an experiment with using the “Block” editor in ways I haven’t before. It may look a mess, and it will be a while before I get back to repair things. I’m hitting “Publish” and going off to celebrate Thanksgiving. Happy holidays!

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.

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Posted in 2022, blogging, communication, community, International, j-heroes, Journalism, Online-Only, Social media, socialnets, Twitter, WordPress

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