How to Join the Fediverse and Cast Off the Attention Economy

This started as a post on my blog. This edited version is intended to be kept more up-to-date.

In How the Attention Economy Hurts You Via Social Media Sites Like Facebook, I wrote about how the Attention Economy in use at big Social Media networks hurts you.

In this post, I’m going to suggest what to do about it.

Mastodon and the Fediverse

When you use Email, you can send a message from an account at Google to one at Yahoo, Microsoft, or any of millions of businesses and organizations running their own mail server. Unlike, say, Facebook, email isn’t a single service, but rather a whole bunch of independent systems that can communicate (or federate) with each other.

The Fediverse is similar, and the most advanced Fediverse client is Mastodon.

Mastodon:

  • Lets you easily migrate your account from one Mastodon instance to another, similar to how you can migrate a phone number from one carrier to another
  • Lets you communicate with users across the Fediverse (other Mastodon instances, and those running other software too)
  • Supports very high-quality conversations through sensible moderation controls

It’s easy to get started! Head over to joinmastodon.org and click “Get Started”. Pick a community — don’t worry, this isn’t a hugely consequential decision, as you can always move or change later. You can browse activity from across the Fediverse, or just on your local community, so if you find a community with similar interests, it can be a neat way to find others to follow.

If you’re looking for more details, mastodon.help has a nice guide.

Defeating the Attention Economy

So, why does Mastodon make a difference?

First of all, you get to pick your host (and even software). With Twitter, you pretty much are using Twitter (yes, I know of things like Hootsuite, but for the vast majority of people, it’s twitter.com only). With Mastodon, you have choice. Pick the host that runs the software and has the kind of moderation you like.

Secondly, Mastodon is not for profit. There is no money to be made in keeping you on the site. Almost all Mastodon instances are ad-free. And Mastodon’s completely open protocols make it easy to go elsewhere if you like.

It’s Not Just Mastodon!

There are plenty of other programs in the Fediverse. And, this is really key, they all interact with each other. You can share photos in Pixelfed (sort of like a federated Instagram) and see them and comment in Mastodon! Some things to point out:

And there are many others.

My blog, for instance, runs WordPress and uses an ActivityPub connector; comments from the Fediverse integrate here.

Find me in the Fediverse

You can look me up: just type in @jgoerzen@floss.social in the search box of any Mastodon instance and click Follow. You can also follow this blog at @jgoerzen@changelog.complete.org.


This was originally published as a post on my blog. This version is intended to be kept up-to-date with developments, and is edited from the original.

This started out at a post on my blog. This edited version is intended to be kept more up-to-date.

Profiting from convincing (or, perhaps more accurately, “manipulating”) people to pay attention. Big Social Media sites like Facebook are part of the attention economy: you pay nothing to use the site. In fact, you are the product; they sell your attention to advertisers, and therefore design their product to maximize their profits by manipulating you to spend more time on the site.

Technology that supposedly is designed to connect people to each other. Facebook, Twitter, and maybe Youtube are examples.

Mastodon is a Free Software, decentralized, global Social Media network. Unlike the other major ones, it is not a part of the Attention Economy, and generally has no ads.

Here are some (potentially) interesting topics you can find here: