Mastodon is a distributed social network created in October 2016 that was built on the premise of creating independently run small communities that can talk to each other, rather than a single, endless stream of triggering horrors.
It’s a microblogging platform that you can think of as Twitter without the ads. Tweets here are “toots,” in keeping with the Mastodon theme, and they can be up to 500 characters long. You don’t retweet, you “boost.”
Hashtags are, of course, a thing. Nazis, on the other hand, are very much not.
Within Mastodon, those smaller communities are known as “instances,” which you can join upon request. And, in part driven by lack-luster policies, annoying algorithms and the never-ending news cycle, some 100 tweeters are moving their wit out of CEO Jack Dorsey’s site and into this new, bossless platform.
Founded by Indy Hall’s Alex Hillman, Jawns.Club aims to be the main Philly “instance” on Mastodon, where Philadelphians can converge to discuss local topics like, say, their disdain for trashy trash can ads.
“I was frustrated with the latest moves that Twitter has been making: from their unwillingness to effectively address abuse and ban bad actors, to killing the remaining third party apps, I don’t trust it anymore,” Hillman said in an email. “And that’s hard for me to admit, since I have been on Twitter since 2006 and use it to stay in touch with a lot of friends around the world.”
If you’re in Philly and considering a smaller, local Mastodon instance to join, hit me up! 🗣
Today we launched a server for people who ❤️ Philly: https://t.co/v1g3NsWlk5 and I have invites.
— 📙 Alex Hillman (@alexhillman) August 22, 2018
For Alix Leszczynski her shift to Mastodon is directly tied to Twitter’s management around suppressing hate speech and changes to user experience.
“Mostly because of Jack and other leadership at Twitter being terrible,” Leszczynski told this reporter in a Mastodon direct message. “But also I was sick of how Twitter was seeming to function: A lot less personal/interactive than it used to be IMO. Hate the feed algorithms too, I wanna see things in real time.”
PANMA organizer Briana Morgan likens today’s experience on Twitter to a ticking time bomb of hate.
“There’s no baseline expectation that I can tweet without getting threats of violence,” said Morgan, a content strategist focusing on public health. “It’s a ticking time bomb over there. And that’s as a cishet white woman.”
For designer Anthony Nguyen, Jawns.club has the appeal of being Philly-centric while maintaining a safe, respectful environment. After all, data says Philly Twitter is among the least positive local Twitter communities among big cities.
“This instance in particular is built around the idea of the Philadelphia community, engaging with one another and helping each other build something great,” Nguyen said. “There’s a strong code of conduct to make sure it’s a safe, respectful environment.”
Full disclosure: This reporter and his editor nervously joined the online community Thursday. So far, content has been wholesome (pictures of people’s plants), funny (“federal mint employee: i make a lot of money”) and there are already quality memes:
Those interested in joining the community can reach out to Hillman on his other social network, here. Though the early adopters are tech-heavy, Hillman said there’s interest in broadening the community and seeing what happens.
“I’d love to continue inviting people from communities that don’t always overlap and interact and see how this can encourage even more offline community building too,” Hillman said.