Creating a Democratic Internet
Mastodon is a free and open source social media platform.
Because it’s free and open source, anyone can use it to host what are called their own “instances”.
It’s like if you wanted to create your own Twitter and you could make an exact replica using the same software, you could just… do it.
But what’s even cooler about mastodon is that it functions more similarly to email.
The big social media sites we use now operate as what are called
“silos” because you’re siloed off from other platforms. If you’re on Facebook but you want to see someone’s tweets, you can’t do that. You need a separate Twitter account.
Whereas with email, I can have a gmail account while someone else has a Yahoo account and we can still email one another.
This is how mastodon works, all instances are federated which means you can be on separate instances but still follow one another.
Instances can block other instances however. So if there is an instance filled with trolls and people harassing other members of the fediverse, your instance can simply block that instance and you will no longer be federated or be able to see or interact with one another.
I believe this format of social media is the most promising in terms of creating a social media that is not controlled by the ultra-wealthy and is instead decentralized and democratized.
My instance is a co-op with a democratic governance structure. I have a vote and a voice when it comes to how the co-op is managed including terms of service, financial decisions, etc.
There are no algorithms, no ads, you can toggle quantitative data on and off (follower counts, likes and shares), and it is intentionally designed to be both non-addictive, and to reduce the harassment and cruelty that so often comes with mainstream social media platforms.
Which imo if you’re invested in combatting the toxic cancel culture dynamics on the left, you should be interested in.
The biggest hurdles I often find in people moving to mastodon are that there is a large learning curve because it functions so differently, you can’t just sign up on one website, you have to actually pick an instance and learn how the federated system works.
Secondly it’s not as addictive, so you have to re-orient your brain towards a platform that is truly based more on human connection than little red bubbles and dopamine hits.
Third, social capital simply doesn’t work the same way there. Going viral isn’t really a thing even though posts can get a lot of attention, it just isn’t to the same degree. It can be hard to part with the validation the numbers and clout provide on these bigger platforms, but imo it’s not only highly worth it-it’s necessary if we want to shift the way big tech destroys our
I’ve seen creators say that even though engagement isn’t the same there, that they still by far get the most business over there. My theory is that because it’s more human-centered, creators are not seen or treated as content producing machines but real humans that other humans want to support.
Not to mention, if these sites tank, that’s it. In a flash all of your followers, all of your posts, all of your DMs can be gone and there’s nothing you could do about it. Even if the site doesn’t tank, if it’s decided your account needs to be removed it just can be which renders us all extremely vulnerable to the whims of these corporations as well as political shifts that limit our freedoms.
Also while I’m pretty sure most instances don’t require a financial contribution, instances can be expensive to maintain so if you want to join a good one, you may need to pay. I pay dues of $1/month in my co-op instance. But the value of being part of a democratic social media platform, having a voice in important decisions, and building relationships with other coops (which our co-op actively seeks to do) are worth it in their own right. Plus one of the perks is an account with a secure co-op alternative to zoom (meet.coop).
People can be hesitant to pay to use social media but being on mainstream social media you’re just paying with your privacy, your security, and for many of us our mental health.
With the recent purchase of Twitter there’s been a huge influx of people on mastodon. Over the years as social media sites have shown their vulnerability there have been several influxes which have been great for the long term viability of the platform as an alternative- a social media platform only really works if there are people there and people we like, know, and want to be connected with. So if you believe in a future for the internet that is democratic, out of the hands of huge corporations, and people-centered rather than capital-centered, I highly recommend finding an instance and joining.
You can find me there at @firstname.lastname@example.org