heywoodlh thoughts

I'm starting a Mastodon Instance

Edit: I decided to switch to Microblog.pub over Mastodon – it made more sense for me as the sole user of the instance. However, everything still applies in this post.

Note: skip this post if you’re not interested in my personal life, stranger :)

This blog has mostly been me writing tech-focused how-to articles on obscure – often not-well-documented – things that I’m interested in. I’m not changing the focus of my blog, but I am going to deviate from my tech writing for this post and talk about my personal life.

I’m starting a Mastodon instance at social.heywoodlh.io. Feel free to join my instance if you’re interested, but I’m mostly doing it for my own mental health and I’ll explain why below.

Toxic traits #

There are a couple of key toxic traits that I have that I think are directly relevant to my intention with starting my own Mastodon instance.

I’m afraid to be vulnerable #

To cope with various traumas in my childhood I became a peacekeeper and am deeply afraid of making myself vulnerable. Aside from my partner, I share very little with anyone that could give them enough to use against me. Despite being genuinely interested in talking with people about technology, I often use technology as a discussion point to keep people at arm’s length.

Make no mistake: I am going to be talking mostly about my interests in technology with Mastodon.

I mostly stopped using social media when I left Facebook in 2016, around the time of the Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton U.S. Presidential Election. Not only was the election cluttering my social media feed with a bunch of angry opinions I wasn’t interested in, I was also reading Cal Newport’s excellent book Deep Work.

There were a couple of immediately obvious reasons I left Facebook at the time:

  1. I had thousands of friends that I mostly wasn’t interested in staying connected with
  2. My feed had a tendency of becoming cluttered with polarized and angry views that left me feeling annoyed*
  3. I had a tendency of wasting time on Facebook because it does a great job at being addictive
  4. Meta (at the time, still named Facebook) had a well established track record of exploiting users*

*The documentary The Social Dilemma makes a compelling case that most mainstream social media platforms are designed to drive engagement by peddling polarizing content to viewers.

There were also a couple of really petty and embarrassing reasons that I left Facebook (that I recently came to terms with):

  1. I was afraid of posting on a public platform out of fear of judgment from people who knew me (because I judged the people who posted)
  2. Leaving social media was an excuse to virtue-signal that I was better than others

There were great benefits to leaving Facebook, though. Removing Facebook from my phone forced me to be more intentional about my time with technology by disabling my ability to doom-scroll. It also forced me to actually reach out to people if I wanted to connect (spoiler, I didn’t foster deeper connections with people because I left Facebook). But, the petty reasons I outlined above indicated my trajectory at the time: I was more concerned with reducing my emotional attack surface from others.

Around the time I left social media (2016-ish), my partner started actively posting to her Instagram account to document her journey with yoga. While she cultivated a community of support and routines around her physical development, I grew more isolated and tethered to anxiety and workaholism. My partner pointed out a troubling trend: many people we knew in real life consumed her content and silently judged her – ironically, while being too afraid to make themselves vulnerable and post their own original content.

I have grown to realize that I am also afraid of making myself vulnerable and fall into this silent majority of judgmental but cowardly people.

I over-share where I’m not wanted #

This last year, I started going to therapy. As a direct result of the mindfulness therapy has brought to my life, I have realized I have a habit of over-sharing where people are not interested. Early in my career, I partially realized that people weren’t as interested in technology as I am. But, where I’ve really struggled is with the people who are somewhere in the middle and pretend to be interested in-person, but actually aren’t and are likely hoping I pick up on context clues to get me to shut up.

This toxic trait looks like this in-practice for me:

  1. Continuously texting people links and mostly being ignored
  2. Talking to those same people in real life when they seem somewhat interested

I would say that the majority of this behavior has been exhibited by close friends and family that I would see regularly due to various circumstances (family/work gatherings, etc.). It’s been a painful but useful process to realize that most people in my life just aren’t that interested in connecting with me in ways that I care about. My strategy has been to drastically reduce my communication when I am unsure if my texts have become the equivalent of spam email.

I struggle with being alone #

When I feel lonely, the two traits I outlined above become a self-soothing, toxic cocktail:

  1. I keep people at a distance
  2. But I need them to fill my lonely void and pester them

I’m aware that me being afraid of loneliness results in me being really unlikable. :)

It doesn’t help that:

  • I was adopted from birth by my biological grandfather (who would become my dad) and step-grandmother (who would become my mom)
  • When I was three years old*, my parents adopted four kids who became my siblings
  • When I was 14 years old, my dad (my only biological relative in my immediate family) died

*Prior to my siblings being adopted, I went from being an only child for the first three years of my life, to being the second youngest in a family of 5 children. I don’t blame my siblings at all, but can’t help but feel that self-serving interests (i.e. appearing noble or righteous) would be a primary motive behind why any parent would be comfortable disrupting a toddler’s life like that.

I’m guessing most people can probably understand why my conflicting toxic traits play into each other so well with the bullet points I just listed.

Why Mastodon? #

I have no idea if I’ve framed it well enough for people to draw a path between how these toxic traits relate to me wanting to set up my own Mastodon instance. But, I want to use it as a place to be more intentionally vulnerable and share my interests with people who want to hear them.

Since reading Julia Evans’ post Notes on using a single-person Mastodon server, I’ve thought a lot about the freedom for me using Mastodon as a potential outlet to express what I find interesting or cool, while allowing others the freedom to subscribe (or not). Julia’s online presence is deeply inspiring to a person like me as she strikes a great balance of being informative and extremely welcoming.

I’ve always appreciated the core concepts of Mastodon at a distance:

  1. Decentralized
  2. Open by default
  3. Users – not a company – are in control of their identity and data
  4. Privacy as a core feature

I don’t know if I’ll post on Mastodon regularly or if I’ll keep my instance around forever. Maybe I’ll delete it quickly after realizing it’s not a good fit for me. But, I want to work on my toxic traits, and this is an intentional step in that direction.

I hope I get what I want from it, but nothing will be lost if I don’t. :)

Attribution #

The following people have been greatly influential to me in crafting my online identity and I just want to say thanks:

Written on April 9, 2024

social media mastodon