Online and social in 2022
Since I joined my first AIM chat room, or started messaging friends on ICQ I loved talking online. I’m lucky to make friends pretty quickly in person, but the appeal of talking via text has always been the ability to consider my words a bit more, and bridge geographic and temporal distance. The platforms I’ve used have come and gone (RIP Flickr and PHPBB), but since 2007 my primary online friend space was Twitter until 2020 when I jumped ship.
After the events of the past month when a billionaire idiot bought a site he could never use well and immediately destroyed the company that ran it and alienated every interesting user my choice to leave felt prescient. I think Twitter was ruined well before Elon bought it, but unlike Instagram (which I also loathe) the ruining may be thorough enough for other things to spring up instead.
Here’s what I’m using these days:
I primarily use Slack for a personal instance with a lot of friends in it, a few former coworker instances, and bike ride planning. I also work for Slack, so testing it through use is a small part of my job. If I had to start friend chats again, I might rethink which platform I use, since Slack is committed to being a tool for Enterprise and Non-Profit use, and not optimize for social chats. It’s well-built though, and performant on every platform I use. Slack isn’t the most useful for meeting new people however, since I need to invite people to the ones I run, and they’re usually friends I already know. In some ways this means Slack is my AIM/Google Chat/Email.
Lately, most of the friend and community spaces I’m in live on Discord. I still don’t really understand many of the Discord features and use-cases, but only needing a single user and login makes it immediately easier to reason about than Slack. The “Nitro” boost funding structure for Discord might not work long-term, but I’m surprised by how many people in the chats I participate in have purchased it.
A benefit to Discord, and being part of Today in Tabs and Garbage Day chats, is that I meet a lot of interesting characters and see varied jokes and opinions throughout the day, which is much of what Twitter previously provided. The 1x1 chats can replace DMs, especially since I never had open DMs on Twitter. Chat is a bit harder to catch up on than Twitter though, as when it’s moving I can come back to upwards of 500 messages in a channel. Unlike Twitter, other than the choice of channels to read or mute, the people in each Discord share a community more or less, so each conversation is furthering and building those connections.
I hope Discord has a long life, as even today when Twitter felt like it was finally dying, all the best chats about it were happening in a channel called #twitter-death-watch as we joked about and heckled the Twitter Space Ryan Broderick and Katie Notopolous were running (with 20k listeners) on the cursed website.
Mastodon & Cohost
I joined Mastodon in 2017 and almost immediately stopped using it. Over the years I open xoxo.social on occasion to see what the two or three people using it had to say, but this past week usage spiked. I don’t love Mastodon, but that’s mostly because I’ve found my strong preference is for forum or chat room-ish spaces over posting timelines. With channels in Discord and Slack for everything from cats, to bikes, to books, I get plenty of opportunities to share my brain worms without using Mastodon.
Cohost was started by a friend, and seems like a decent replacement for Tumblr, but I was never much of a Tumblr user outside of porn of which Cohost seems to only have anime or furry stuff that is not to my taste.
To replace the newsfeed aspect of Twitter, RSS continues to be my weapon of choice. I follow a few Twitter accounts, and can easily add Mastodon ones if it comes to that, but the journalists I follow via their site’s feeds keep me updated.
I got into the habit over the past few years of messaging friends on iMessage, Slack, or Discord to comment if I saw them post something funny or thought provoking on other sites, and that seems to work well. More of my friends are blogging again too, which means even more interesting posts when I refresh Reeder.
As long as the internet exists and people populate the planet, I will want to talk to them online, and I feel confident some platform or another will meet my needs. My best recommendation for anyone reading this who worries about where to be online, or which platform to use, is to think a lot about which sites or methods of chatting made you happy in the past, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe you’re a lurker, or prefer video? Maybe you’re like me and you mostly want chat rooms and forums. Or maybe you just want to re-post Tumblr fan fiction. Regardless of what you like or how you want to post, there’s probably an online medium for you.