Is “Thoughts On” My Brand Now?
I’m sure you saw this post coming! Don’t worry I am not making a callout post on my Twitter Dot Com about specific people on Mastodon. I just wanna talk about what happened and how I feel about the place now versus two years ago. I also apologize in advice for having too much fun with the subheadings.
Firstly, if you want some writing about Masto that is better than anything I could put out (mostly because I don’t proofread lol) then take a look at this very good article that is constantly mocked by Mastodon users despite explicitly laying out its issues in a succinct manner regarding how people of color are treated on the website and wow this is just one huge warning flag I shouldn’t have missed, huh? Hindsight is a hell of a thing.
It’s also a good read if you don’t know what Mastodon is, which I’m not going to be explaining in detail here because this post is long as is. Sorry!
I joined Mastodon some time in 2017. Like many, I clowned on it for its seemingly impenetrable user interface and complicated set-up of instances. I didn’t know what the hell the difference between a Local and a Federated was. However, I decided to stick with it, and eventually, I came to enjoy it. I needed a new community and was feeling disillusioned with Twitter and its myriad of issues, and Mastodon filled that hole for me. Soon I went from skepticism to outright recommendation. Hell I wrote my own guide on how to use the damn thing!
Mastodon was not a net negative on my life. In fact, I technically (we’ll get to this) owe a lot to the community. It let me be more comfortable with my Grey-Aceness. Encouraged me to unabashedly love my original characters. And just generally let me be more open about the kind of person I wanted to be. Those are all good things! I also think that Mastodon as a software is still generally better than Twitter, especially regarding the Local timeline existing as a method to foster community instead of screeching into the void and hoping someone screeches back.
So in the words of the esteemed Matt McMuscles and/or Rickey Rat:
Let’s find out.
Look at Me: I’m the Sea-lion Now
As I got more comfortable on Mastodon I started to talk about issues that were important to me: namely, the racism I deal with daily.
This was widely considered by many Mastodon users to be A Bad Move. Oops!
Despite being touted as a less garbage version of Twitter, Mastodon has just as bad an issue with menchie invaders as any social media website. The only difference is that there're fewer flavors of the kind of reply clown you’re going to get:
- A white guy touting FOSS
- A white person asking you to explain elementary racist concepts to them instead of just typing it into their search bar
- A white person explaining how racism isn’t real because /some bullshit reason.
Mastodon is hella white. Shocker, I know. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one besides “only white people have been allowed to be tech nerds” is that a large chunk of people joined it initially to “get away from politics.” Which is why every time I had the gall to mention some aspect of racism I was dealing with without putting a content warning up, some furry would show up to complain to me about how I was forcing them to confront…uh. Let me see here checks notes oh right, the specter of white supremacy that will haunt me until my dying breath. Sorry about that!
Clout! Huh! What is it Good For?
I have been told that I was a “popular Mastodon user.” Don’t worry, I will definitely be putting that on my resumé, right next to “moderated a big subreddit,” — it’s about as useful to me in real life. The reality is that all this did was attract attention I didn’t want.
The cycle was pretty clear, in retrospect: I’d say something that I thought was, by all accounts, generally accepted by leftists. It would not be generally accepted by leftists. Cue the Instance Explosion. Maybe it was about CWing racism. Maybe it was about how Islamophobia was bad, actually. What it was about didn’t matter — what mattered was that everyone has to have an opinion on Mastodon Dot Com. This is in spite of the fact that the software’s terrible search engine makes it impossible to find out the original focal point of “””Discourse.”””
So, what’s that lead to? Subposts about the Meta. Subposts smugly talking about how much better a User is for not engaging in the Meta. Takes literally no one was asking for. So on and so on — and so on, and so on, and so on…
Intermission: But Mint, Why Didn’t You Join the POC Instance?
Did You Hear?
Let me sum it up, to a degree: Mastodon is just Twitter but with the intense community-drama of an early 2000s hobby forum. It’s also 2000% whiter than Twitter.
It is embarrassing more often than it isn’t. You can figure that out pretty easily by trying to tell literally anyone you know in real life about any dramatic Mastodon happening of the past six months. The way the community has been built may not encourage screenshot dunking or quote-tweeting, but those are just software issues. A community is more than that. It’s listening to POC. It’s recognizing the implicit (and frankly, explicit) biases that stem from a mostly white user-base. And it’s creating some sort of support system when a user is deeply upset. Wouldn’t you know it, that deeply upset user was me! And I was Fed Up.
I Was Fed Up
Yes, I was fed up! So, I took a break for a few days, and it felt great. Then I deleted my account. And Readers, seeing the aftermath confirmed undoubtedly that I made the right move.
It was another Instance Explosion, and it was the most embarrassing of all to watch. For a website that claims to hate politicians, its users do a fantastic job of emulating them when something bad happens. “We need to do better about the racism on Mastodon.” “Something needs to be done about the racism on Mastodon!” “Someone needs to do something about the racism on Mastodon!”
You. You need to do something about the racism on Mastodon. R-right? I felt like I was being gaslit. People were wielding my name as a weapon to get clout, pointing fingers at each other so that they could feel better about themselves. Hell, I even saw someone complain that I was getting too much attention when they felt like they should have had more. Oh, and I got accused of chasing clout and being a shitposter, myself.
I hope a couple of boosts were worth that to be honest because boy did it make me feel like shit. But only temporarily. Because I realized that, again, despite touting itself as being “The Superior Twitter,” very few people on Mastodon actually cared about me or POC issues beyond using it as a cudgel for internet points. That realization ended up being more freeing than anxiety-inducing (eventually, lol).
Did I get money thrown my way? Sure did. Did it make me feel any better? You’ll be surprised to hear this but no, actually. The last few days I cared about Mastodon were spent with me as a charity case, an arcade machine to put tokens into with the hope that racism would be defeated if I’m given enough. Money didn’t and won’t fix the issues Mastodon has.
So! That’s that. I guess in the end everyone on Mastodon got what they wanted. The uppity Black boy was successfully attrited from the site, and the people that “defended him” can sleep soundly knowing that they chastised everyone around them hard enough. The next time someone whines about how they don’t like being told that “white people are bad,” I certainly won’t be around to slap them out of that bullshit. I haven’t been back, but I’m about 99.97% sure that nothing has changed and it’s back to uwu business as usual.
Kind of, but that’s okay! The conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s all bad, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have better.
Twitter and Mastodon are proof-positive that open social spaces on the internet aren’t the answer in the long term. They just aren’t. Even leaving my door open just a tad is enough to let some racist with a Raspberry Pi and a dream come in and talk down my thoughts and experiences. Just because it’s the internet doesn’t mean you have to — or should — give everyone access to you as a person.
That’s why the closed forum I created, Sunset.Camp, has been such a breath of fresh air for me. I know all 52 users that are signed up to it. It’s fantastic because it’s a space I created myself, for me and the friends that stuck around with me after I left Mastodon. I don’t have to worry about the heavy shadow of The Meta casting down on it, or that someone with an 8 digit username and an anime profile picture is going to come and tell me why the Blacks should just pull up their pants if they don’t want to get shot. I spend most of my online social time there now, and it’s done wonders for my mental health.
That said, I don’t think of SC as the end-all social space for any of its users — I’m just personally invested in it because I created it. Instead, it’s exactly what it says on the tin: a camp for someone to swing by to after a long day, comfortable with the knowledge that they’re talking amongst friends. And that’s pretty great, in the continued howling hellscape that is 2020.
I still have a Twitter account because I need some sort of forward facing social media account to validate my writing and upload PS4 pictures to, but even then, I’ve been more relaxed there than I ever was near the end of my time on Mastodon. This is mostly predicated on the fact that there’s a variety of minorities there. It’s really that simple.
Sure wish Elephant Site could figure that out.
Phew! Glad I got all this off my chest. Did you read all that and still feel compelled to donate to me? That’s incredible actually! I do have a Patreon and Ko-Fi, which you can put dollars into for my creative ability and not to feel better about yourself! Thank you!