Image by Taichi Nakamura
With the name decided, the domain purchased, server space bought, and molding my alcoholism in a somewhat functional state, it was time to set up to do what I came here to do: set up my own Mastodon instance.
The docs themselves were pretty good, but admittedly I didn't have much experience with Rails (mostly because I'm not a fan of 37signals, but that's another story for another time). Still, I'm a quick study of programming languages, so after a couple of tutorials and a bit of trial and error later, I was comfortable with starting the process of getting my own little social media space up and running.
One thing I remember vividly through the haze of post-breakup blues and too much drinking was how the excitement of trying something new cut through the fog of depression I was experiencing. I didn't know what I was doing completely, but figuring it out gave me a level of focus I hadn't experienced in quite some time. I quickly fell into a pattern of tinkering, breaking something, looking it up, and tinkering again, and it was glorious. Heuristic learning has always been my happy place, and it felt right to be in that space again.
There were many moving parts to Mastodon, so it wasn't the easy piece of software I've set up, but it wasn't the hardest either, so the installation went by quickly. I was in the mood for complicated tasks because I was determined to see if I could get it working, but I was pleasantly surprised it wouldn't be as difficult as I thought.
So after a bit of command line magic and patience, I was up and running, and I posted my first-ever note on Playvicios Social:
(If you don't know what this is from, there's a good chance we won't be friends.)
For a time, I loved Twitter. It was my favorite of all the platforms because of the instantaneous nature of communication worldwide. My friends were there. People who I wanted to know but didn't were on there. News platforms and people on the ground were there. It was so much of everything right at your fingertips and glorious.
My distaste for it began when I noticed that I was seeing content that I was not interested in more and more in my feed. White men complain about trivial things. Various news networks were pushing the latest anti-black nonsense. Police unions were getting increasingly aggressive about their lies to justify hurting people. And in general, just being shown more hateful content from people I did not seek out or follow. Of course, it was later revealed this was intentional. Still, at that time, it didn't take a lot of thought to see yet another social media platform was trying to maximize its engagement by whatever means necessary, no matter how toxic, damaging or dangerous.
I had built up a decent following over time. Still, I didn't join Twitter to be a Thing™. I joined for the culture. And now that the platform aggressively curated that culture in a way that I felt kept people from connecting authentically, the charm quickly wore off.
The fediverse was an entirely different experience altogether. I didn't have algorithms suggesting people I was not interested in or a typical list of trending tags. It was... open. I had to find people to follow. I had to find the topics I was interested in. My experience on mstdn.io (which I eventually de-federated with, but we'll get to that later) was singular; if I didn't want that experience, I could do something else. It felt wild and untamed.
This appealed to me because I was a product of the IRC era. I spent many a night in front of a computer tapping out my thoughts in a terminal, talking to people from who knows where about who knows what. Sure, there was plenty of racism and ugliness in those spaces, but there was something pure about the unfiltered nature of it. In these places, I learned how to deal with hateful people (because I love trolling trolls) and even build my communities, so I didn't have to deal with it. Of course, the population in those spaces was limited because it took a certain amount of technical know-how to set them up. It wasn't the most popular way to communicate in those days, and honestly, many people that frequented those places were just assholes, but it still had its own set of charms that kept me coming back.
When I first started using Mastodon, it reminded me of those days. The uncurated days. The unfiltered and independent days but in a much more friendly package to everyday people, which was a big motivator for me. Sure I had to figure it out because it was still broadly a community of tight-lipped and often smug tech people, but the exploration and discovery aspect of being on the fedi more than offset that for me. I just wanted to see what was out there.
I'll be the first to acknowledge the fediverse has its problems that must be dealt with if it has any hope of being the defacto network for everyone on the web, but those first couple of weeks were bizarre and unique. Marica had decided to join my instance, and she would ask about the particulars of how things worked, and I remember telling her I didn't know I would have to find out. That was fun for me. The journey from going unfamiliar to familiar in a new space was one I wholly embraced, mainly because it was on me to figure out so I could set the tone of my specific environment.
I got to set that tone. Not a manager I would ever meet. Not an over-populated platform that didn't care about making spaces better for human communication. Here, I was not burdened by outside whims that could dictate what I did and didn't do by values hostile to people like me.
It was a massive challenge that I embraced. It was an opportunity to make a space solely and specifically for the weird and the strange—a place for me and my people.
It was a new opportunity to create differently. Ha, and it let me think about something other than my ex when I smoked on my porch at night.
It wasn't quite a new day, but it would do in the meantime.