A few weeks ago I got my screen time report and noticed that the top spot had been replaced. Its usually reserved for either Kindle or Firefox but now Mastodon had taken over.
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a micro blogging software that you can self host. If you don’t want to host your own instance you can sign up to an instance that you think suites you. For me that’s pkm.social. These instances are run by volunteers, though I imagine that there are instances you need to pay to access. I haven’t found them though.
Every instance has their own policies and rules. You can connect with people on other instances as well. Some people compare it to Twitter and I get it. But there’s no algorithm, no ads and there’s no bad caricature of a cyber punk baddie as the owner.
For-profit social media needs you to stay so you’ll look at more ads and give more of your information. The algorithm that makes this possible creates a toxic environment. When some of us leave these toxic platforms like Instagram or Twitter we feel a sense of relief being free from the algorithm, ads and people feeding this beast. We find an instance we feel connected to and we start to talk to people that share our interests.
That’s how it was for me. I left Instagram in search of a more communal space. When I wrote my introduction at pkm.social I got a warm welcome from people passing by. Some of them followed me straight away but most just said their welcomes and continued on. It felt warm, like going into a town meeting in a new village. If you wanted to discuss something you approached a group and said your piece but there was no pressure to put on a show.
What went wrong
So I started posting and made some friends. I found that people on Mastodon rarely answered if they didn’t have any meaningful to add and that made me more conscious about what I put out there.
But then it started. I opened the app and refreshed, hoping that someone would’ve posted. Nothing new. I thought about what I was gonna post that might lead to responses. I wrote something really rather clever and waited. When I saw that notification I felt that burst of excitement in my brain. Then I felt pathetic.
When the screen rapport came, that was it, I needed to change. Here I was, telling people on my blog to not check social media all the time but I was spending more and more of my own time on Mastodon.
What it means for me
I have a limited amount of time each day. I’m either working or taking care of my twins. Time spent on Mastodon is time not spent on what I need to get done for myself.
I have a good system for getting my things done but this was a reminder to keep better tabs on my time. If one part of the system starts to take up to much time it needs to be adjusted. Because I truly believe that social media can have a place in a good life system. I’m a lonely person with no real drive to make connections in my physical life. Social media is my place to reach out and talk to others. I think my life would be worse without some form of social media. But it needs to add to my
system, not take time away from other things.
So what now
Mastodon is better than social media based on algorithms. It doesn’t try and trap you so you’ll watch more ads. It can be a great place to find resources and new things to investigate. Therefor I don’t feel the need to uninstall like I’ve done with Instagram. This is a me-issue, not a software issue.
What I’ve done instead is turn off notifications first of all. This means it’s easier for me to manage my time on social media. I don’t come running when it dings, instead I spend some of my minutes scrolling through others thoughts and reply to eventual answers to my own posts.
I think a lot of people in my generation use social media and even e-mails as if it were a chatroom. We try to answer as soon as we get pinged, no matter what we’re doing at the moment. We get stressed when we can’t and we constantly check to se that we haven’t left someone hanging. I’m gonna let you in on a secret. No one is sitting phone in hand waiting for you to reply. I would hazard a guess that 99% of the time the person who comments on your post might not even except you to reply at all. But if they do, I can almost promise that they don’t expect an answer in the moment.
I’ve also started being more mindful of what I post. Instead of posts in the Twitter style, designed to try and make people respond to me I try and show off new finds or boost posts I think needs to spread. I do micro blogging by writing about something that’s happened during the day that made me pause and think. And I always try to be positive. Bad days are for my journal not for strangers.
I hope Mastodon is the future, that we’ll make history of for-profit social media. But we still need to be mindful on where our time is spent, even if the quality is better.