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Social Media: It’s about control…

close up photography of smartphone icons

I saved this image when I first saw it back in October. Since then, Elon Musk has bought Twitter, and in the days and weeks that have followed the acquisition, there has been a crash in advertising revenue, mass layoffs, and an exodus of users. Amongst those losing their jobs are content moderators who have been at the forefront of the battle to keep misinformation and hate speech off Twitter.

Advertisers are leaving Twitter in droves and it’s up to users if they want to follow suit. For some, the platform is already becoming too toxic. Others, particularly “influencers” will be wondering if their personal brand is damaged or enhanced by being present on Twitter.

The problem for many users is – where do you go if Twitter is no longer for you?

As the image above outlines, all of the social networks are owned by someone… Except one.

Enter Mastodon

A literal “elephant in the room”, Mastodon is a decentralized social network similar to Twitter that, by design, has no one owner. Anyone with enough technical skill can set up a Mastodon server. That server becomes part of the federated network of Mastodon servers, meaning users on any server can follow and see content from users on any other server.

The experience is not quite the same as Twitter – discovery is more difficult and although Mastodon registrations have increased dramatically since Elon Musk purchased Twitter, there are still only a fraction of the users on Mastodon that there are on Twitter (and they are spread across a large number of servers, so you need to hunt them down).

If you are looking to connect and converse with other people with similar interests, Mastodon has a lot to offer. If you’re looking to reach a large number of people, you’re going to find the community small compared to Twitter (however, this does amplify your voice and mean you’re more likely to get interactions, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing).

The other thing to keep in mind with Mastodon is that it is moderated, just like Twitter is (or was), but moderation is server-specific. When you first register with Mastondon you need to pick a server and you will inherit the moderation rules of that server. If you truly want “free” social media, your only option is to run your own server, set your own rules, and then rely on federation (through the “Fediverse” of Mastodon servers) to spread your message across the network of Mastodon servers.

Setting up a Mastodon server is fairly complex, but something I think I may try… just so that if I bump into Elon and he mentions that he owns a social media platform I can say “oh yeah, I’ve got one of those as well”