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Cultural Guide for Fediverse Newcomers

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Introduction

Hey y’all, my name is emsenn, and I’ve had an account in the Fediverse for about a year now. I’ve been interested in online networking for most of my life, though, so even though I haven’t been in this network for that long, I have some thoughts I would like to share, especially for people who are just now going the Fediverse, or lookign to become a bit more a part of its culture.

(The “Fediverse” is a federation of networked communication platforms - Wikipedia has an article on the Fediverse.)

License and Editorial Information

This essay is released under the MIT License and maintained at https://git.sr.ht/~emsenn/cultural-guide-for-fediverse-newcomers, where a list of syndications is available.

You Can Bring It With You; Don’t

A lot of people come to the Fediverse because they’ve become untenably frustrated with their experience on legacy social media, like Twitter or Facebook.

Moving to the Fediverse is a really great solution to that frustration! Some platforms, like Osada, are similar to Facebook. Others, like Mastodon, are like Twitter.

But be careful that you don’t bring over more than you need to from those legacy platforms! It’s easy to, because you’re from Tumblr, boost every post you like in your Mastodon feed, but maybe that sort of signalling is what led to the culture in Tumblr you didn’t like?

When using computers, it’s easy to look for ways to preserve your older habits, but when communicating with people, it’s important to drop those habits if they no longer serve your interests.

So before you post, or boost, think about the problems you remember from the platforms you came from, and give some thought to if you might be recreating the culture that led to those problems here.

There Isn’t A Single Culture

Of course, despite your best or worst efforts, you wouldn’t be able to do more than skew the culture of your part of the Fediverse: there’s no unified culture to the Fediverse, due to the distributed way in which instances network.

You’ll hear people bring this up to brush off criticism and musing about the Fediverse’s (multitude of) culture(s), and while they’re technically correct, it’s usually an irrelevant point. Sure, there isn’t a single culture to the whole Fediverse, but from every single user’s perspective, there is.

So talking about “Fediverse culture,” is always talking about the shapeless and shifting culture that the speaker is exposed to on the Fediverse, and while it’s a bit sloppy to use that shorthand, it’s not going to change.

If people are talking about Fediverse culture, and you see it, on the Fediverse, they’re talking (at least in part) about the culture you’re a part of, and you shouldn’t just brush that off.

Everything is New

Throughout this post I’ve been calling Facebook and Tumblr and such “legacy” social media, which is a ridiculous phrase because they’re also incredibly new.

Everything to do with online communication is incredibly new, and it’s important to remember that, because it means that no one is provably right. There are a lot of people with a lot of experience, whose voice is worth consideration, but we still have no real notion of how this sort of communication affects us, either individually or as a society.

So every take is a hot-take, because nothing has had time to cool off.

Focus on Your Self

The culture that will have the strongest effect on your sense of identity is the one you build inside your head, and that’s determined mostly by what you’re exposed to.

Make the culture of the Fediverse something you want to be exposed to - follow people who will bring you to that goal, boost and write posts that fulfill that goal, and disregard the rest.