Of Mastodon and social networks today

Last January, during a dinner with friends, we ended up talking about social networks, e-mail, algorithms, aggregated data, etc.
At the end of the conversation, the conclusion was quite clear: the sooner we quit the most famous social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… ) as they are thought of today, the better.

We even got to talking about how it would be much better to rely on a paid mail provider rather than using the more famous and free ones where, we already know, we pay the price by giving our data to third-party companies.

That evening I heard for the first time about Mastodon, a decentralized social network, in which everyone can set up a server and run their instance on which users can coexist and interact with all the other instances of Mastodon existing in the world. This mainly means that no one owns Mastodon and shouldn’t be able to make money off it.

The next day I created my Mastodon profile (@lucadigennaro@mastodon.uno), I saw its interface a bit, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it, so I turned off the PC and went to sleep.

Let’s jump forward several months and we arrive in November 2022.

Having followed the story of Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase, and not being particularly fascinated by the way it was done, I decided to reactivate my Mastodon account and give it a second chance.

Thanks to a mass exodus from Twitter, I found some friends who directed me to make the right configuration of the account (thanks David!). I downloaded the mobile app, put it in the same place as the Twitter app, and moved the bird to page two.

The move started to work, I logged in less and less to Twitter and more and more to Mastodon.

The thing I immediately noticed was the lack of sponsored content and the presence of only posts from people I decided to follow. No ads, no recommended videos, and no external restrictions on the content.

Using Mastodon was a bit like stepping back in time, where the internet wasn’t a rowdy city bar, but rather a club of D&D enthusiasts.

This whole process has led me to think about the fact that lately, my relationship with social networks like Facebook and Instagram has changed profoundly, concluding that they are tools that keep you in touch with friends but only with some of them who an algorithm decides. I have to navigate between, memes, blatantly fake recommended videos, people arguing, embarrassing photos, advertisements for items I’ve just talked about with other people (proving that the phone is listening to me), etc. just to find out what a dozen out of two thousand friends are up to today.

I don’t know if it’s worth it, frankly, because I might just text them “hey, how are you?”

Furthermore, all this flood of useless content eats up what remains of our free time and distracts us from our passions, if we have any. Scrolling through our homepages on social media can hypnotize us even for a whole hour, which we could instead dedicate to something else.

In hindsight, putting up this site was subconsciously my first step towards mass social networking detox.

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