I had a version of this post in the pipeline long before the events of the past month that have seen people looking, more seriously, for alternatives to Twitter. The conversations I’ve had recently about what else is out there have finally pushed me to return to my draft and get it finished!
Long before Twitter changed hands I had been exploring other spaces to connect with people. I’ve had a Mastodon account for a few years and started spending more time there this year. I also set up a stream on micro.blog towards the end of last year. And finally, this year joined PixelFed. You might ask why am I on them all, but that seems to me a bit like asking why you’re on both Twitter and Facebook.
I’ve called this issue slow social because that’s my experience of these spaces. Unlike the other social networks I feel content to drop in just a couple of times a week, and at most once a day. And I don’t feel with this schedule that I’m missing out. Unlike with Twitter which moves too fast for this activity frequency. It feels like many others are aligned with this slower pace too; sometimes the next post in a conversation comes after days or even weeks. And that just works.
What is different about these spaces?
Conversation and connection take priority. The decentralised nature of the Fediverse allows for communities to be built around specific interests where people go to geek out about their thing (while also having the ability to connect to people in other communities). For example the main space I am in focuses on writers, and I’m also in a network designed specifically to talk about exercise.
There’s also greater flexibility in the type of post you can create (from short missives to longer blog posts) and more awareness of how what you share affects other people too — on Mastodon you’re encouraged to put a content warning on posts that contain content others might want to avoid, eg politics. This all creates an atmosphere where richer conversations can take place and deeper connections can be made.
There’s no algorithm or ads. Timelines are chronological and on micro.blog there’s no follower counts or likes. This gives an even greater sense that the network you are creating is people powered. I also wonder if this is why there are more individuals and fewer businesses in these spaces and generally less news/media content being shared.
They’re not siloed. Without getting too technical (mostly because I don’t really understand it) federated services use the ActivityPub protocol to connect with each other. This means, we don’t all need accounts on the same service to be able to see each other’s posts and interact with them. For example, if I enable ActivityPub on micro.blog you could follow me with your Mastodon account (and vice versa).
The people who created them are, well, people. They’re invested in the community, share their values and vision, and participate in conversations. For example here’s Manton Reece, the creator of micro.blog speaking in a conversation about how the platform fits into a post-Twitter world (which also highlights some of the many reasons people love micro.blog just as it is):
I think we always need to keep in mind that the goal was never to recreate Twitter exactly. As Mastodon becomes more popular, I’m not swayed to add features that we left out on purpose.
These alternative spaces aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK. There’s a bit more of a learning curve than with mainstream social media — I’m pretty sure I still only grasp the basics, but that’s enough. Remember what it was like joining Twitter for the first time a decade or so ago, the same was true there.
I want to wrap this up with a post from Annie about her experience on micro.blog:
As a copy writer, if I were writing a tagline for mB it would be, “Social media you can feel good about.” The features are great, but those are second-tier selling points. First tier is emotional — I feel better about myself and the world on mB.
And perhaps this Twitter thread can give you a bit of an insight into what it is about micro.blog that helps to create that feel good vibe 🤣
If you are curious and want to dip your toe in the water let me know and I’ll help you get started in any way I can.
Where you can find me
Food for thought
Further reading on alternative micro blogging platforms: