Wednesday, April 12

mastodon.social

I registered an account on mastodon.social a couple of months back and lurked a little. The vibe was a little heavy on the whole gay communist furry post-tumblr thing for me to feel like I had a whole lot to add personally, but it seemed like an interesting enough little corner of the network all the same.

Then the other day circumstances (and Sarah Jeong) conspired to bring it to the attention of the disgruntled-with-Twitter internet, and it got a bunch of extra signups and traffic. So far, despite an influx of longtime twitterites, the dominant style is a lot less rampagingly negative than a lot of places. It’s also heavy on programming, mental health issues, formulaic denouncements of capitalism, and reflexive Twitter-bashing. Most specific political content outside questions of software architecture seems to be culturally discouraged, though it’s starting to filter in.

Maybe more importantly over the long term, it’s built on GNU Social et al. and takes seriously the idea of a guaranteed-open implementation (AGPL!) and a network federated along the lines of old-school services like e-mail. Clients talk to a server, but servers are many and interconnected, while the identity of the user is bound to a server instance rather than global to the network. There are problems, but from first principles it’s a more hopeful of an effort than I expect from things that can gain traction on the internet in 2017.

Of course things could easily enough go to shit at any moment, and it does nothing to solve the problem of whether doing things on the public network is a good idea at all. All the same, it feels like a better effort than yet another centralized service.

ignoring the internet

Outside of that one specific thing, I have been basically ignoring what happens on the internet, especially the corners of it that are routine for professional nerds and people with an interest in politics. Which is probably detrimental to both my career and my capacity for civic involvement in the long term, but greatly increases the odds that I can work my way through any given waking day without falling into a crippling despair.

I recommend it unreservedly, and hope that I have the strength to continue it as a practice.

I’d like to work out a way to keep having political knowledge to the extent that it informs my actions in a useful way, but I’m pretty sure spending all of my time paralyzed with anger and disgust doesn’t do much for my political efficacy or my relationships to other human beings.

don’t write the comments

A related thought: I kind of stopped writing so many comments on websites, and I sure do feel like less of a full-time asshole.

“Don’t read the comments” has gotten pretty well ingrained in the general understanding (if not the general behavior), but I think it probably doesn’t go far enough. It’s not just that they’re usually a bad idea to consume. It’s that undertaking their production is on average actively harmful.

The exceptions are real, but rare.