I have been planning to write something on this topic for a while, and initially planned to spend some time during the holidays to collect my ideas for this post, but who can find time during holidays? Am I the only one that seems to be busier during holidays than the rest of the year?

Anyway, considering my very low opinion of Elon Musk, and my even lower opinion of the Saudi government, once the takeover of Twitter took place I decided it was time to move away from that platform, and looked again at Mastodon, many years since the last time I checked it out.

Now, I never had a great relationship with Twitter to begin with. I created my account in 2007, used it fairly often for the first few years, and then less and less. I would login every few years, have a look around, get immensely bored, or fed-up with all the negativity there, and leave for few more years. The only reason I did not delete my account a long time ago was to avoid someone else to register and use it, and this is the same reason why I still have my @isazi Twitter account. I may decide to delete it at some point, the same way I deleted my Facebook account some years ago, but this is not happening today.

Fast forward to November 2022, with Mastodon instances sprouting all over the place, I had a look around and decided to join an instance created for the Dutch academics, and this is where you can find me now, with the usual @isazi handle. My first idea was to join the Italian pacifist instance of, but I then opted for something more closely related to my current job. What I was not expecting joining Mastodon is how much better than Twitter this place felt, almost immediately. And I realized that the reason for this is how my feed is built and populated.

There is no algorithm shoveling content at me with the final goal to keep me “engaged”. I see only the content produced by the people I follow, and their re-broadcast of things they find interesting. If I find you interesting enough, I follow you. If you start producing content that I do not want to read anymore, I unfollow you, and the platform will not keep showing me your content just because we have some contacts in common. This may sound like a bubble, and it partially is, but it is such a better experience for me personally. My Twitter timeline was nothing more than ads and content that the Twitter’s recommendation engine decided it was “interesting” for me. And this algorithm’s definition of interesting was very controversial material that would make me feel bad.

I used, and still use to say, that in such systems you are a click away to become indoctrinated. Well, I actually say that you are a click away to become a Nazi, but it’s the same. One “like” to a shady tweet that does not look that shady on the surface, and your feed starts populating with conspiracy theories, bitcoins, Nazis, climate change deniers, and so on. And if you are fed this content without knowing, and do not have enough information antibodies, the risk of being trapped in such discourse is very high.

The point I am making is not that such kind of content cannot exist on Mastodon, or that the people on Mastodon are better. The point is simply that no algorithm will start showing you such content just because you liked something or followed someone, to keep you engaged. I believe this approach is much better for our society and our public discourse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.