The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Mastodon or Mastodon't?


I have been Twitter sober now for nearly three years. I do not miss it at all. And I do not plan to join Mastodon, because if it survives (no guarantee), the site will suffer from the same flaws as Twitter.

Social media is premised on a simple idea: Person A posts something that Person B will find useful. Invariably, Person A, desirous of more fans, will try to post things that are of interest to a bigger audience. But in doing so, Person A will start pushing the envelope. Person A, on social media at least, becomes something of a persona. And that persona will differ from how Person A operates in reality. As the persona grows, Person A will garner critics, who I'll refer to as Person C. Person C will try to use Person A's platform to increase Person C's presence. Person C engage Person A–seemingly in good faith–but with a jab in the background. Person A may respond, at least initially, until response seems a waste of time. Person C will fault Person A for not debating. Eventually, Person A stops replying all together, and simply uses Twitter to promote his own work.

Every successful media platform starts off in this period of digital bliss, where only a small cadre of people in a small social network engage with each other. Facebook was launched when I was a junior in college, and it was initially limited to college students on certain campuses. It was great! There was some check on who could participate. But eventually Facebook opened up to people outside the campuses, and eventually everyone around the world. It became much less useful. I also remember when Twitter launched. I used to be able to read all of the tweets my friends wrote. Chronologically, I would just scroll through, and see all the tweets. That task is now impossible.

When any social media site reaches a critical mass, it no longer serves that initial purpose of socialization. So something new comes along. No one can fix that problem. Not even Elon Tusk.