OK listen. As a blogger who relies on social media to do important work (keeping up with Sex News, responding to journo requests, promoting blogs and audio porn, and shamelessly bragging whenever I get railed by a hot guy), I cannot fully disappear from Twitter until someone turns out the lights. While people who matter remain on the platform, I’ll still have to maintain a presence there – scheduling posts to go out so that people in different time zones get the chance to beat one out to them too. But let’s face it, it’s run by a fascist toddler and is now so choked up with spam that it’s borderline unusable. Plus, as a sex blogger, I have now been so shadowbanned that even the grown-ups who follow me are unlikely to see my extremely high-quality tweets. I need a new social media home, otherwise where else will I post my scorching hot takes? So I’m calling this for now: fuck BlueSky, fuck Threads, you can find me on Mastodon. Here’s why.
Firstly, I want to note that while I’d absolutely love for you to join Mastodon yourself and come follow me there, this isn’t really a concerted attempt to persuade you. I’m definitely hoping to tempt some of you, because I have good friends who still cling to Twitter like one day it’ll go back to how it was, and I’ll miss having those people in my digital life if they don’t make the jump. I’m slowly drifting away from Twitter myself, though: most of my tweets there are scheduled, and I rarely reply to @s or DMs. If I want to hang out and have fun, these days you’ll find me on Mastodon.
But I don’t expect everyone to want to come to Mastodon, and I think that’s OK.
Fundamentally, social networks are meant to be places where we connect with our people, share the things we love, and discuss the topics we’re interested in. They’re personal, so different people will find that different spaces work better as their social ‘home.’ One of the reasons I’ve never been on Instagram, despite knowing that it’d probably have been good for my blogging career, is that I am not in any way a visual person. I take photos by pointing my phone in the vague direction of an object or landscape I found interesting then hitting the button. I legitimately cannot take a selfie to save my life. If it weren’t for Stuart’s incredible work here on the blog, this website would just be a giant wall of text and nothing more.
As Elon Musk continues to slowly pull the legs off Twitter like it’s a spider he’s torturing for fun, various Twitter competitors are springing up to try and take its place. And what seems to happen is that everyone on Twitter sets up an account, just to be on the safe side in case everyone fucks off in that direction, then pops back to Twitter to let all their followers know that they’re here on NewSite now. Follow me there! Stay in touch! Please don’t leave me out!
I’ve done the same. You can find me on BlueSky if you like, though not on Threads.
It’s starting to feel a little like closing time at the pub. We’ve met tonnes of cool people, made some really firm friends, and none of us wants the party to end just because they’ve rung the bell for last orders. So a cry goes up from one corner of the room: “where we going, gang?” and in return there’s a cacophony of responses.
“The BlueSky Inn’s open till 3! And it’s so much like This Place!”
“Mastodon Arms is pretty good – you have to solve a riddle at the door but it’s friendlier once you’re in!”
“I’ve heard cool things about this new club called Threads! They strip-search you on entry, but once you’re in all your mates are there as well!”
As everyone shouts out different venues, we all run round in a panic trying to work out if we can tag in at each one, just to check on who else is there, before deciding where we’ll stay. Where are most people going? Where are cool people going? Where are the sexy people going? Where are my friends? We need to know where everyone else is settling before we fully commit. We – and I include myself in this, of course – hedge our bets. Set up accounts on multiple platforms to claim our names, see who else is on there, take a look around and maybe share a few links or wry jokes about the collapse of the place we’ve just run from.
And we panic that we’ve picked the wrong place. So we bounce back to another, and another. Dipping in to Twitter occasionally to see people’s handles have changed from SoAndSo@Mastodon to SoAndSo.BlueSky, or SoAndSo is now on Threads, whatever. All the while clamouring, hunting, hurting for a place that feels like home.
Where are we all going?
I’m going to Mastodon
The thing I like about Mastodon is this:
On Mastodon, you see the posts from people you follow in the order in which they were posted.
That’s it. That’s the key, and that’s why I love it. You choose whose posts you see, and you see them in order. If someone you follow boosts (like a retweet) a post from someone you don’t, you’ll see that post in your home timeline at the time it was boosted. There is no ‘for you.’ No algorithm dictating that you probably want to see this random bit of hate speech because loads of other people are QTing to dunk on it. No random posts shoved into your timeline just because the person who posted them has a million followers. You see posts and boosts from people you have chosen to follow, and you see them in the order in which they were posted. That’s it.
If you want to explore outside of your follows, you can head to other timelines (federated, trending, hashtag timelines etc), but that is a proactive choice you make. Fundamentally there is no algorithm fucking about with your choices.
This is massively important to me. For ages I have been aching for a social network that is rooted in consent like this: not based on algorithms which try to guess at what I might like or manipulate me into liking other stuff just because it’s more commercial or better for ‘engagement.’ I don’t want an algorithm shoving content into my face on the basis of ‘engagement’ metrics, because that way leads to anger and depression and doomscrolling: sadness and anger are more powerful drivers of engagement than ‘here: a cute tree frog. Observe its little green face.’
The most important thing about Mastodon
Because of the ‘no algorithm’ thing, as a brand new person on the site you actually stand far better chance of gaining traction than you would have on Twitter. Twitter would put you right at the bottom of the pile when it came to recommending your content if you barely had any followers. On Mastodon, remember, you see posts in the order in which they are posted. And boosted. So if you get boosted by someone with lots of followers, your post will appear in those people’s timelines. It won’t be hidden or downranked just because you’re a nobody. One of the reasons I had a fairly healthy follower count on Twitter is because I set up in 2009, pre-algorithm, when it was more like Mastodon and therefore much easier to get in front of brand new people.
Importantly, too, your post won’t be hidden or downranked because you’ve been shadowbanned for being a sex blogger. This part’s important for me, your mileage may vary. During the whizzy bit at the very bottom of Twitter’s death spiral, my follower count was stubbornly stuck at 23.3k. Even when I got retweets, visibility was low because I was being hidden from so many people for the crime of sometimes talking about cocks. One of my top examples of Twitter fuckery was the fact that in order to read Molly Moore’s tweets (find Molly on Mastodon here), following her was not enough, I had to specifically navigate to her profile because she was shadowbanned. It was hard to tag her into stuff because her name didn’t drop down in search suggestions (because she often posts hot pictures of her sexy ass and tits). Molly’s one of my best mates, and this purportedly ‘social’ network was hiding her from me, because it didn’t want me (a fellow sex blogger) to be corrupted by her nipples.
That is objectively farcical.
Anyway. Mastodon doesn’t do that. Some instances do block adult content, but you can pick one which doesn’t. And Mastodon does do a thing called ‘defederation’, where if you happen to be on an ‘instance’ which harbours tonnes of trolls, racists etc, other ‘instances’ might decide to stop allowing their users access to… OK look. I’m just going to ask you to ignore concepts like federation and instance for now. Mastodon nerds will be more than happy to go into detail with you about the tech of it, and the way it works, and all this nitty-gritty info if you so desire. But honestly I’m kind of exhausted by all that stuff. I am not interested in how this works, only that it works. My connection to Mastodon isn’t rooted in the structure – the ‘decentralised’ nature of it or the particular ‘instance’ I’m on – it’s rooted in the experiences I’ve had there, and what they mean to me.
That, I reckon, is what turns a platform (a service? Whatever you want to call it) into a genuinely social network. Somewhere that feels like home.
My favourite things about Mastodon
1. People really do share stuff more than they do on Twitter
A relatively SFW blog post I published in June got 15 retweets from my 23.3K followers over on Twitter. On Mastodon, where I have around 3K followers, it got over 150 boosts. It’s harder to track referral traffic from Mastodon (it has more of a privacy focus, so won’t show up the way t.co does in your analytics), but it’s very easy to see that people there tend to share things more often. Maybe it’s a culture thing, maybe it’s that people are more likely to boost your work if they know exactly what impact that will have. I suspect a bit of both. But for me, as someone who primarily uses social media to
bang on about myself constantly like a thirsty little bitch promote my work, this is hugely valuable.
2. You can add content notes to your posts, and content notes are EXTREMELY GOOD and freeing
It fucks me off when people say that content notes (sometimes called content ‘warnings’ or ‘trigger warnings‘) are bad for free speech, as if the act of labelling your own work is tantamount to self-censorship. It’s not. I find myself freer to speak when I’m allowed to make it explicitly clear what I’m about to discuss – saying ‘this thing is gonna be dark’ gives me the freedom to talk about the dark stuff in ways I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing if everyone was expecting lighthearted jokes. On Mastodon, you can add notes to your posts, so if you’re going to post a picture of your hot naked tits it’ll be blurred out and hidden behind a click so that those who want to see naked tits right now can opt in, and those who are currently on the bus with their niece and nephew can choose to scroll on by. Consent is a key thread running through a lot of this, you may notice.
3. Longer character allowances
Mastodon allows for much longer profile text as well as longer posts. This is important because I have loads to say and I’m extremely clever and witty.
4. More privacy as standard
You know how on Twitter, Piers Morgan used to go searching his own name so he could dunk on people who called him a lubed-up shitweasel? Yeah? Can’t do that on Mastodon! If you want people to find your posts you can use hashtags – hashtags are searchable, as are people’s screennames – but the content of your posts is not searchable by default. Call Piers Morgan whatever the hell you like, if you don’t tag him in or use the hashtag #LubedUpShitWeasel, he’ll never find it.
On a more serious note, what this means (for me, at least) is that I can be a little freer about things I post than I would have been on Twitter. I wouldn’t necessarily have told the story about my Grandparents with Twitter followers, or post so many lovely walk reports which give clues as to where my location is (or recently was). That’s not to say that Mastodon is private, and you definitely shouldn’t treat it that way. It’s just, again, an issue of consent: you are less likely to have your content pushed into the faces of people who do not consent, and therefore (I think) less likely to get randoms interacting with you just because they hate-searched whatever topic you’re discussing.
Note: the one area where there is less privacy is worth noting – your DMs on Mastodon are NOT private. The people who manage your instance can see your DMs, and you should never ever ever share sensitive information there. I actually quite like this, because it gives me an excuse to say this as clearly as I can: please do not ever DM me on ANY social network if your message is important. Email. Always. ALWAYS. The only time you should be DMing me is a) if your message is a silly/fun thing that I don’t have to reply to or b) you’re letting me know you emailed, in case your email got banished to spam. I do pay fairly close attention to Patreon messages, because those awesome people help me keep this show on the road, but other than that, please assume I am not going to see your DM. Definitely don’t pitch me or ask about anything work-related via DM. If it matters, send it by email.
5. The opportunity for reinvention/new habits
This is true of any social network, which is why I’ve left it for last. Whether you’re Mastodon or BlueSky or Threads or whatever it is you decide is right for you (PixelFed is to Instagram what Mastodon is to Twitter, so visual people might wanna check that one out!), starting up on a new social network is an opportunity to form new habits and reshape the way you interact with the world. I absolutely adore this stuff: like starting a new job and being able to go by the nickname that didn’t quite stick at your last workplace, or being transferred to a different school and not having to put up with everyone making jokes about that thing you did in Primary, reinvention is powerful and cool.
On Mastodon, I allow myself to talk about my life outside of sex blogging in a way I realised I’d stopped doing much on Twitter. It’s boring to try and tell people about walking the Capital Ring if you immediately have to field a bunch of reply guys going ‘hurr hurr I’d inject MY capital into YOUR ring!’. Likewise posting DIY pictures, and having dudes go ‘lol looks like you’ve got some HARD WOOD there!’. I felt a little like Twitter had become a space for me to drag my weary self, dump the latest sackful of porn, grimace at the state of things then swiftly leave. I didn’t really enjoy being there any more.
On Mastodon, I’m trying to embrace the opportunity for reinvention. Not completely changing my personality (alas, that is not possible: I have tried very hard indeed), just allowing myself to be a little more ‘me’, and therefore curate a space in which I feel genuinely comfortable. Part of that involves actively reminding myself to practice good habits: liberally blocking people who say shitty things, muting those who try and ‘splain to me (there are, for some reason, WAY MORE of these people on Mastodon than on Twitter, perhaps just because I haven’t yet muted the ones who do it most), and on a more positive note following people just because they seem vaguely interesting. You do have to put some time into following lots of people when you start, but once you’ve got a couple of hundred you can use tools like FollowGraph, which shows you who the cool people you’re following also follow, and help you pad out your timeline. If you’re a creator, check out this fabulous Mastodon guide by Aimée Maroux.
I find that because there’s not an algorithm determining whose posts/boosts you see, I do end up seeing a greater breadth of content than I do on Twitter. So mine’s not just sex/politics/people QRTing TERFS to dunk on them and thus forcing me to look at hate speech every day, it’s ‘sex/politics/lovely frog/NASA scientist/shitposting.’
From a purely sex perspective, I see fewer ‘black and white gifs of a tiny cishet woman being aggressively pounded by the thick cock of a cishet dom guy’ and more stuff like ‘hot trans women doing creatively badass things in Star-Trek themed lingerie that they knitted themselves.’ It’s pretty great.
As far as I’m concerned, a decent social network shouldn’t be here to just keep feeding us the same stuff over and over again, regurgitating takes that it thinks we’ll have a reaction to purely because that’s what an algorithm tells us will work. It’s about finding your people, embracing the things about them (and yourself) that are delightfully weird, then sharing those things with enthusiasm. You know, like Old Twitter. It’s one of the reasons I am so baffled that the friends I made on Old Twitter are reluctant to make the jump: you know how we all say Twitter ain’t what it used to be? Mastodon is the closest to what Twitter used to be that I could ever imagine, with the additional benefit that it isn’t owned by a single company or lone sadistic billionaire, but by… fuck I don’t know. It’s open source so… no one? Everyone? Something like that. I’d have to get bogged down in instances to talk about it much, and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that.
As I said at the start, I’m not here to persuade you. The main reason I’m writing this post is so I can pin it at the top of my Twitter timeline to explain why I’m not there as much any more. It’s more to calm my anxious mind so people don’t think I’m ignoring them, and hopefully help me gradually step away from that place. If you like the sound of what I wrote above, do give Mastodon a go. But if you reckon your people are best found elsewhere on the web? That’s also cool. In fact, that’s delightful for me because you can share my utterly groundbreaking/heartwarming/crotch-tingling/spafftastic blog posts on whichever network you’re calling home these days.
Whichever ship you jump to as Twitter slowly sinks, my actual home – the one in which I take my shoes off and dance in my knickers and sing showtunes in the middle of the kitchen – will always be here at GirlOnTheNet.com. Subscribe via email, bookmark it in your browser, get it tattooed on your lover’s inner thigh so you can think of me while you’re snogging their junk: whatever. This is where I really live – any other platform is just shits, giggles and marketing.