2022 in review: rise of the Mastodon

A screenshot of the top of the Sunny Garden Mastodon instance

I haven’t left Twitter yet. To be honest, I found it too interesting, watching the seemingly bad moves Elon Musk was making at every turn. I wanted to see every twist and turn of its demise – which, er, appears to be taking a bit longer than predicted.

Others, with higher morals than me, have already closed their accounts, disgusted at Musk’s tweets and at who he’s let back onto the platform. I suppose I’m waiting to see if the community reaches some sort of equilibrium – will its long arc bend toward justice?

When you put the bad actors and extreme right wingers and stupid culture wars aside, Twitter does actually do something for people like me. I think in his big ideas about platforming free speech (for which read, hate speech) and blue ticks and all, Musk has forgotten the ordinary people who just want to have a chat or a laugh, or who find Twitter useful for making connections in their own niche.

When I think about what I value on Twitter, it’s being able to ask and give small pieces of advice; socialise with people I might just see once a year at comic festivals; find out about opportunities for submitting artwork, and so on. The shouty politics and bad faith arguing? I can get that anywhere.

Incidentally, for those also still on Twitter, the best thing I did this year, prompted by advice from a colleague, was to create a List that only contains comics people. It means you can swipe right on the app and see only their tweets – and it totally cured the fact that my main timeline was full of politics (plus now weeks later, my main timeline seems a lot less political as well; I suppose all the likes I made on the comics list re-educated my algorithm).

But. During that time when it seemed like Twitter might implode and collapse on itself overnight, I did explore the other platforms that people were migrating to – Post, Hive, er, something else that I can’t remember the name of but which I patiently waited in a queue to join.

And Mastodon. Mastodon has stuck. It was moderately painful learning the ropes of how to join – specifically, I joined a server that then went offline, and sat there for a couple of weeks waiting to see if it was going to come back to life. But then I tried another one, specifically for artists, and that was fine.

More than fine, actually. It’s taken a few weeks but I’m actively enjoying it. One smart thing I did, more by accident than design, was to follow the #comics hashtag, which means that I get a constant flow of posts in my feed, even from people I’m not actively following. OK, I’d prefer to be able to whittle this down further to ‘my kind’ of comics – indie, self-made, etc – but for now there is a really good hit rate of interesting stuff.

There’s a lot of visual art. Posts are longer, and so far people seem kinder, more engaged. What has really blown my mind is that every time I make a post (using hashtags) I get a flurry of new followers, ‘boosts’ (like a retweet) and comments. It feels like, because the community is new, everyone’s actively looking for quality content and people to follow.

One acid test for me came yesterday when I asked a quick question – not comics related; travel tips this time – and got a useful set of responses. So that’s definitely one thing I got out of Twitter and can now find on Mastodon.

You know what it reminds me of? Live Journal. Only, a bit shorter form and more immediate. I like it.

Here’s my Mastodon account if you’d like to follow.

I haven’t seen a way to auto-post from WordPress to Mastodon yet – someone kindly pointed me towards a plug-in, but I’m on a cheap tier and it doesn’t allow for plug-ins so I’ll just wait ’til it’s added to the standard WP suite, I guess.

Talking WordPress. I saw this – a project to make a directory of bloggers that aims to revive the old habit of reading via RSS. If you want to be included, the first step is to fill in their form and then pledge to blog a minimum of three times in January.

I always blog a lot in the Christmas holidays, so I’m sure I won’t be keeping up this level of posting, but I’m still going to go for it. Maybe you will, too!

Published by Myfanwy Tristram

I am an illustrator, situated in Brighton on the south coast of England, and with a special interest in comics and graphic memoir. I also work for a non-profit which encourages people to be active in democracy and to exercise rights such as the right to information through FOIA.

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