That Mass Migration to Mastodon Shows the Journalists Are Actually Unserious Nomads

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

For months, media figures made themselves the news by loudly leaving Twitter; their new platform Mastodon is proving not to be a home.

Do you recall how for weeks that all we heard from the media class was their plans to leave Twitter en masse, taking up residence in a new and far more classy social realm since Twitter was going to whither away after an avalanche of sociopathic behavior? Well, in taking a look look at how our esteemed journalism elites are doing in their new digital Utopia it appears all is not as they had promised.


After a couple of months of hype and promises, the social media colonization by a slew of journalists and media figures that took place on the alternative site Mastodon is not exactly flourishing. A study of the site’s analytics finds that the expansive growth it experienced over the past couple of months has not only ebbed but now there is significant constriction taking place. After some impressive surges in new accounts since October, by the start of the new year things have turned, and now the number of active users on the site is on a sharp decline.

The number of active users on the Mastodon social network has dropped more than 30% since the peak and is continuing a slow decline, according to the latest data posted on its website. There were about 1.8 million active users in the first week of January, down from over 2.5 million in early December.

The indication here is that while many journalists flocked to the site, that has not translated to a vibrant new community thriving with a renewed purpose. Instead, it has been shown to be more like petulant storming away, leading to high school levels of cliquish behavior that resembles the very activity they were pledging to be fed up with, leading to their departure.

The takeover of Twitter by billionaire and classification-defying social figure Elon Musk has been a vexing enterprise for reporters and pundits. His continued revelations in the Twitter Files have exposed the journalism complex as complicit in silencing voices and manufacturing approved narratives on the platform. He has undercut their elitism in a number of ways, such as diluting the import of “blue-check verification” and subjecting them to the same suspension standards as the rabble.


When he began finalizing his purchase of Twitter last October there was collective mewling from the media about the dangers this would deliver and predicted anti-social behavior and other problems that would surface. That much of these promised calamities have not developed is of little concern; the journalism outrage was justified by their reports, and as a result, many in the industry declared they were taking their word processors and going home!

This whine-fest lasted weeks and we were delivered the news that other social websites were going to be desired – with one popular landing spot being Mastodon. The German-based platform was touted as the perfect solution, with many media figures making dramatic exits, announcing they would be establishing themselves at the new home base for “proper” social interaction, away from Musk and his pesky adherence to free expression. And just as quickly, we began to see problems in their newly colonized sector.

Mastodon is set up uniquely in that it is an open-source platform that offers up dedicated servers in any number of categories, like independently operated fiefdoms. This allowed the fleeing media members to establish journalist servers to populate as they condemned Musk’s perceived oppression. This also means they were creating a rather insular environment, rather than a fully open platform where you can gather news and information from any source. It is not hard to imagine that a social environment comprised mostly of journalists would turn dysfunctional. 


Challenges began to emerge in their new promised land. First, a number of the other servers on Mastodon were outright blocking the journalist host server. They did not trust a cabal of reporters who might be rooting around for information or simply pimping out their works in clickbait fashion. Next came the issues that were internal.

The journalist servers began to take on “Lord Of The Flies” characteristics. Mastodon is not as simple as setting up a personal account, you have to petition to be included in a particular server, and the gatekeepers of the journalist servers were acting exclusionary in who they would allow. (Personally, I had been denied on a couple of requests.) Then, as far as the behavior of those granted access, they began turning on each other. The vaunted characters who chose to flee the sniping of Twitter resorted to that behavior, reporting others for everything from disapproved stances to representing outlets or policies deemed inappropriate.

One other reality was revealed by the very construct of a dedicated ecosystem of ostracized egos and press pariahs. While this gathering of distempered media members was gathered together most of their interactions were in regard to Twitter. Once I managed to be approved for one journalist server I scrolled through to see this crowd of avowed Twitter refugees spending almost all of their time discussing the intolerable site they had voluntarily left. 


It was the classic manifestation of the spurned lover who swears they are completely through with their ex…while unable to talk about anything else but how horrible their ex had been. But this conclusion was probably inevitable, given the high number of those making their theatrical departure from Twitter, all while never truly leaving.

In early December – just around the height of the new Mastodon engagement – one survey looked into those who had pledged to quit Twitter and move permanently to Mastodon. That study of 140,000 accounts declaring they were leaving the site finds that a minuscule number actually deleted their accounts. Just 1.6% went through with their pledged eradication.

It is of little surprise that this hyped creation of the new social Eden would fizzle. What was created was a homogenized tribe where everyone was talking about just two things – Twitter, or journalism. They had no general audience, they were being closed off from other outlets, and within their circle, it became a tribe of exclusionary sniping elites. The appeal was minimal, and while they were busy high-fiving each other for fleeing the social horrors of Twitter they came to realize all they had managed was to build a more concentrated version of the anti-social sandbox.

It became the classic case of not wanting to join a club that would accept themselves as members. 



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