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My experience in Mastodon and Federation

Soc Virnyl Estela | 2022-12-08 | updated: 2023-04-02 | reading time: ~5min

In this blog post, I will discuss why I found myself falling in love in federated social networking than the mainstream social media websites such as birdsite and zucksite.

The issue§

For a long time, I must admit that I am no stranger to be in the internet like everyone else. I usually just scroll and scroll. But there is one thing that bugs me all the time when I was in birdsite or zucksite: the algorithm. Most folks call this the algorithm so let's just stick to that for now.

So we already know what this algorithm does to most of us right? Posts that have a significant number of follows, reposts and likes are more likely to be seen than others which means engagements feel more unnatural and is designed to increase chances for the user to feel the surge of dopamine and thus, it's why social media addiction is quite prevalent in this age.

And that's not the only problem. For example, if a misinformation has more likes, reposts and follows than those that are factual, scientically-backed and peer-reviewed information, then a lot of people usually agree on the former than the latter posing so many problems in the scientific communication and bringing factual information. This is evident during the COVID-19 pandemic and we all know what happened so let's stop there.

Mainstream social media for a long time is still vulnerable to political propagandas, health quacks, and scientific misinformation that it already became a headache to various experts on how to mitigate this problem. Also, we users are victims to those problems and I doubt that will go away anytime soon.

But what about privacy?1 That's another issue that's been repeated over from other blog posts of other people so we all know the gist here. I do value privacy, but the only issue with these is I have families, friends, and colleagues that use zucksite and birdsite. Therefore, I really cannot leave this sites. As much as I want to convince them, they cannot just jump ship because they are used to it because these sites make people lazy after all. The only solution is to lessen the amount of info you can give to these sites but I do think I already gave them enough that they can profile me since my accounts are as old as me. lol

Fresh air§

I noticed mastodon after I was looking for privacy alternatives around the summer2 of 2021. If I can remember correctly, I joined types.pl around the time when I explored around. I saw an acquaintance of mine joined so I was interested so I joined as well.

What I noticed was, it was actually so dead. I apologize for those that are offended but it was. Keyword: was 😉. While exploring the new site, I was also on birdsite. Birdsite for a long time has started to show its signs of becoming a cesspool of garbage and tar. Thankfully, my follows and followers are just those people I know. But like I said, it showed signs of becoming a cesspool of garbage. Let me correct myself, it was for a long time a cesspool of hate.

Misinformation, racism, antivaxx, there are too many to count, I actually lessened my activity on birdsite and just read blogs from people instead. I waited for the day until Space Karen3 got baited to buy it. And that's when I finally jumped over.

Mastodon and others that interact with ActivityPub e.g. Misskey, have similarities with the mainstream social media. But there are differences:

  • Federated instances
  • No algorithm
  • Hashtags

Federated instances§

Unline most mainstream social media, federated social networks such as mastodon is not owned by a single usually corporate entity. They are from community of volunteers or from a single person of whom hosts those federated instances using their own money and resources. That's why if you have the money, please do donate to your instances. They are usually doing it for free.

Because they are not owned by a single entity, there is also a concept of defederation where instances are blocked from at least one instance because of disagreements or abuse. This means that any crappy instance that are defederated are more likely to become isolated from other instances and die. In birdsite, you cannot do that and thus, some piece of garabage will slip through your home feed sooner or later even after you block some toxic people. It does not mean that it's true to most instances, it kind of depends on your instance admin and owner so if your admin does not do anything after all the abuse, you can just hop over on another instance.

No algorithms and Hashtags§

No algorithms, it's self-explanatory. Because of this, federated social networks feel very unusual for those that migrated from birdsite and zucksite. Users are encouraged to boost to gain visibility. And also, the use of hashtags is recommended so they can follow a topic they want. And it is etiquette to add Content Warnings for your posts and captions for your photos for those that have visual and hearing impairment.

Conclusion§

It is really a breath of fresh air. I do not have to fear of replying to people because of the number of followers that they have or engagements nor do I have to care anymore about repost and likes counts. Because federated social networks encourage users to discuss, and talk rather than focusing their energy on needless clout.

Thus, I think I will stay in Mastodon for quite a long time 😄

1

Privacy is relative. As long as you are on the internet, you are not completely private. Limit the information you give to the sites you are in 🙂

2

Philippines don't have summers, we are a tropical country. lol

3

Ooooh mars! and that guy that fixed traffic

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