Like others – and ultimately, billions of us – I flocked to various social media in their early days and loved the experience. I played games, made videos, chatted with strangers, shared pictures and selfies and snippets of my day. I wrote about things close to my heart, heard breaking news, and discovered musicians and artist and thinkers. And then, like many others, I stopped loving it.
Much has been written about the woes of Facebook and Twitter lately, though it seems unfair to single these out. Most social media seem determined to serve us up what they think we want, based on whatever mysterious algorithm rules their processes – or perhaps, whichever billionaire owns them. The results have been disastrous, some would say – but certainly the pandemic, in particular, brought many things to our attention: the rise of disinformation and misinformation, outrageous and hateful speech, more polarization in politics, the distinct decline in value of what it means to live in a democracy, not to mention foreign entities interfering in democratic elections…I suspect I could go on at great length, though that seems unproductive. The great joy of social media for me was to discover others not like me – people in different countries and cultures, people who vote differently, whose daily lives are far removed from my own – and yet, in spite of these differences to feel kinship with a fellow human. To be able to disagree with grace and politesse – for it is not on those points with which we agree that we are able to expand our limitations. I think the promise of social media was to enlarge our communities, while in the end, most platforms created more silos, more division, more gated communities.
I have not deleted any of my social media accounts, though I find myself using them infrequently. I have moved to a new (to me) version of social media called Mastodon. There is a learning curve to new media, and I am not the right person to explicate this! There are many excellent articles on the web, however, on the overall structure and navigation – Mastodon divides itself into servers, and when you create an account you must choose which server to join. On the other hand, you can interact with people from all servers, and also change servers at any time. It is what Mastodon does not have that is probably most important: no algorithm elevating certain content, or advertising – and that may be its most important feature, although no one billionaire owner perhaps another. In my very brief space of time there, I have been extraordinarily impressed with tone and content and sheer kindness – so vastly different than so many other platforms right now. It is early days for me, and Mastodon is experiencing massive growth as the dumpster fire at Twitter continues – a bumpy ride. Still, it seems invigorating to be part of creating a better social media experience, and I will keep you posted, my imaginary friend. If you make the leap, you can find me at https://mstdn.ca/@VivianLea