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Interacting on social media while keeping its noise low

Part of a ‘degrowth’ series, this third post is focused on my online social interactions, and how I keep it manageable.

Simone Silvestroni's avatar

It’s been three years since I rejected the morally corrupt, privacy-invading, time (and energy) waster that is corporate social media, and it works. Besides email, chats on either XMPP or Telegram, and a couple of audio-related forums, I only interact online on Mastodon. A decentralised social media, part of a larger interconnected network called fediverse, it’s independent and open source. Designed to be small, it can’t be owned by a single entity. Its ethos is one of inclusion, also reflected by tools that favours accessibility, and a fine tuning of the strictly chronological timeline through detailed filters. The fediverse currently suits me well.

My approach to Mastodon has consolidated to these practices:

  • Checking out anyone who follows me, using a few criteria on what constitutes a potentially interesting person. It’s often empirical.
  • Following (or following back) people who actively interact with others, generally post interesting things, seem empathetic, and are not a brand. If there’s no authenticity, I see no point. Broadcasting a successful online persona is not being social.
  • Limiting 99% of my posts to pure text and links, which lowers the load on the electric grid.
  • Always providing an alternative text to images, for accessibility.
  • Not using a Mastodon app on my mobile phone, just the website in Firefox.
  • Not enabling notifications.
  • Disabling boosts, only occasionally checking them out.
  • Strictly avoiding the federated timeline.
  • Enabling internal notifications (the “bell”) for new posts by a super short list of people that I deeply care about, so I don’t miss on what they write.

I’m often adjusting my follow-followers ratio, based on an ever-changing perception of other people. Unfortunately, vetting is something that needs to be done every now and then. I seriously don’t care about numbers, however I tend to quickly spot the borderline-broadcasters, or borderline-brands. Usually, I wait for a few weeks or months to see if they jump the shark, before unfollowing.

Pretty much all other social networks have nothing to do with social, thus don’t interest me. While it’s true that I still have a YouTube account, I’ve been using it like a TV in the 1990s, only via RSS and Pocket. Focusing on fewer asynchronous and authentic interactions, and removing the obsessive checking, uploading, replying that’s been the norm since the early 2000s, I achieved some needed degrowth.

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