I Tried to Use Mastodon But Wrote This Article Instead
For the deeply and clinically online such as myself, there’s a mixture of schadenfreude and anxiety involved in watching 51-year-old self described memelord and DJ Elon Musk’s “Twitter 2.0” implode. Though it’s well known that every successful company is run on nootropic-fueled 2 AM email ultimatums and vague insistences on employees being “hardcore,” somehow, Twitter still seems to be in dire straits. It’s a bit like watching someone desperately bail water out of a boat immediately after firing the guy with the bucket. Still, though, even as asshole Icarus’ wings melt, the people of the internet will still need a place to shitpost. And so, other platforms have stepped up in a grand mating display.
One of the forerunners, most often touted by the more tech-forward, is that of Mastodon. If you’re unfamiliar with Mastodon, which has actually been around for a while, it’s a decentralized, open-source social media platform that relies on user-owned and operated servers. If that sentence is absolute fucking gibberish to you, then you are also beginning to see the problem. See, the thing is, Mastodon is a good idea. As a non-fan of large corporations owning my personal information and a casual paranoia haver, decentralized (meaning there is no overarching company or corporation that controls or owns any content within) social media seems like a great solution to provide actual unfettered discourse. Think of it as the online community bulletin board in the public space (I refuse to say town square) that Twitter liked to paint itself as. Except without a guy who owns the bulletin board moving some posters on top of others, pulling others off the board, and also taking extensive notes on everyone who posts on the bulletin board to sell to advertising agencies.
Unfortunately, without a corporation on top, there also isn’t a desperate need for a quick, painless sign-up process in order to harvest as many users and their personal data as possible. Signing up for Mastodon is, despite what software engineers on Twitter will try to tell you, a painful chore. Sure, there’s explainers and walkthrough guides to help you through the process, but the fact that they need to exist at all is the problem. If you’re writing a “quick-start guide” for your social platform, consider the fact that maybe you should just make the start… quicker. Signing up for a social media site shouldn’t feel like I’m still stuck in the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. See, when you sign up, you just have to choose what server you want to be on! Don’t worry, there’s a billion! Also, it seems really important which you choose, but it actually isn’t! It’s simple!
As someone who’s spent a decent portion of my life in obnoxious computer nerd circles, Mastodon is sending serious Linux vibes. In that, my reaction to people using it is: good for you, you seem to really like it. It smells of the work of software engineers who scoff at the idea that maybe, just maybe, their work should be just the slightest bit dumbed down. You can tell me all you want that Mastodon is simple and the difficulty is overblown, and I will just point you to a thread called “An increasingly less-brief introduction to Mastodon” by user joyeusenoelle on GitHub. This sums up the entire issue, to me. It’s someone setting out to make a brief introduction, only to end up with a 3200-word, heavily sub-headed, forever hungry monstrosity. And this is on fucking GITHUB, a site that is FOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS. You think someone is successfully explaining this shit to Cher? Bless your heart.
If you’d like to say that I’m just too dumb to understand Mastodon, or that I’m being purposefully obtuse (pot, meet kettle), feel free. Smear my name all over mstdn.smartguy.shittalking or whatever the hell server you’re signed up on. I will be over here, doing something much more valuable with my phone time (playing games).