A Soft Revolution In Social Media

Jacky Baty writes about the new Bluesky decentralized social network and ponders a return to Mastodon.

Bluesky has a real You can’t come here if you’re not one of us” vibe right now. I mean, someone suggested that anyone even inviting someone bad” should be banned. What do you think is going to happen when it’s out of beta and anyone can join? People are people. I can’t wait to stop talking about Bluesky. I shouldn’t even have posted this, but it’s bugging my how both Mastodon and Bluesky think they can enforce culture at scale.

It sounds like the speech and behavior policing may be even worse on Bluesky than it is on Mastodon, which is saying a lot. Recently, Justin Garrison posted about how he thinks Mastodon is ultimately doomed. One of the major problems he sees is the difficulty of the often thankless job of running an instance. It’s not cheap, and it’s a lot of effort to keep an instance humming along smoothly.

Running your own instance is increadibly time consuming and difficult to understand how to secure and scale. It also can be quite expensive if it grows to any meaningful amount of use. Even if you’re not a heavy poster, the way relays work consume a lot of storage to follow hashtags and users from different instances.

Rather than growth being something that an instance owner wants to achieve, limited participation seems to be almost more desirable. That is even before you get to the additional burden of moderation. One instance that Garrison cites, Mastodon.lol, shut down over rancor about Harry Potter.1 The communities that have formed on Mastodon foster what can probably be most generously described as a litigious atmosphere. Many of the users on Mastodon feel like their slacktivism is holding people accountable.”

I think there is a lot of innovation going on with Mastodon clients, but that doesn’t make up for the negativity of the scene. Forgiveness and grace are in short supply in those communities and malicious intent seems to be assumed more often than not. It comes as a contrast to someone used to an online space like Micro.blog, which is characterized by a much more charitable tenor of discussion. Micro.blog isn’t perfect, and no social media site ever will be, but it’s a lot closer to the ideal than any of the alternatives that I’ve tried or even just read about.

  1. The instance owner posted a parting screed about J.K. Rowling, but has since taken the whole site offline.↩︎


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