Thinking through the problem of starting a new social account

Magician hand with magic wand

That sinking feeling that so many Twitter users have, that they’re not sure they can be arsed starting from scratch, is what is keeping so many around—even if the instinct is to leave. And it explains the (not terribly useful) tools that sometimes help you find people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon.

There’s a lot of careful curation – a lot of work! – that has gone into my Twitter account. For example, while I’ve blocked a fair few accounts (let’s not assume they’re people) over the years, I have also muted around 200. That’s 200 decisions to shush people who I either follow out of politeness (see Face Theory), or more likely because they were so frequently retweeted into my timeline that I took action. 

There are also about 80 key words I’ve muted, including phrases like “Farage”, “World Cup”, “Toby Young”, “Thanksgiving” — just because I’m not interested in the conversations people have around those topics. Which is before we get to the 300 or so hashtags I’ve muted, including “#xfactor”, “#wimbledon”, “#TobyYoung”, “#Strictly” — you get the picture. In fact, you’ll be wondering if there’s anything at all in my timeline.

But then in the Great Migration to Mastodon, where do I start?

You have to start the process of curation all over again, but you also want some shortcuts. At the same time, you don’t want to give offence to well-meaning people who are kind enough to follow you by not following them back (Face Theory again).

So here’s the problem. I am politically left; I won’t say liberal because that implies economic liberalism to me, and I am not that. I am progressive, redistribution, tax-the-rich till the pips squeak, hike fuel taxes, pro-renewable, anti-growth, all of that stuff. But I don’t tweet (or toot) about it much, and I don’t really want to be in conversations about it. I don’t believe tweeting (or tooting) about any issue makes a damn bit of difference. You can’t reform the voting system by tweeting (or tooting), or stop Nazis, or end oppression. You can’t even embarrass a politician these days, because we’re post all that. So I don’t want to either be in or out of an echo chamber. No interest in engaging with people who disagree with me (I won’t even cross the road to talk to my flag-waving neighbours), but also no interest in getting riled up by people who do agree. It’s just a waste of words and psychic energy.

There are lots of these people over on Mastodon. I don’t dislike them, but I just don’t want to read their political toots. Content warnings are a boon in this respect.

But what do I like, or want?

I don’t mind pretty pictures. I like following at least one art account, but I wouldn’t want to follow too many. And I like natural light photography. I’ve got not problem boosting a great picture of the night sky. On the other hand, I think the selfie is the death knell of civilisation (which is why I’m not on Instagram), I don’t want to see your tattoo or your piercing, and I don’t want to get into the Flickr-like loop of commenting, “Great shot” every time someone posts a nice photo. And I definitely do not want to look at your illustrations of pixies/vampires/pink haired beauties.

In summary, so far: politics is a no; landscape photography and painting a qualified yes. Star Wars, Pixar and Lego are generally a no.

Then there’s music. Fine, fine. I love The Beatles and The Band, and Brandi Carlile and Tift Merritt etc. But I do not want to follow your band’s account, sorry.

Novelists I’m fine with, as long as it’s not too pluggy and there aren’t too many political things.

As to journalists, in very small doses, yes. I prefer someone like Zoe Williams at the Guardian, who occasionally does write about politics (in an inside baseball kind of way), but also does lifestyle, talks about the funny things her kids put her through, and loves her dog. But some huge ego at the New York Times? No thanks.

The truth is that the people I like following the most (big surprise coming) are people like me. People who occasionally comment on the news—usually to make jokes; but also watch TV; read books; follow recipes; go for nice walks; potter around in the garden; ride bicycles; try to stop their houses from falling down around them. That kind of thing. 

Now, if someone would just wave a magic wand.


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