No, not the band. I'm writing about the decentralized social media network that's become a somewhat well-publicized alternative to Twitter. That Mastodon.
The band is fine. I think I like the idea of their music more than I like their actual music. I feel like maybe if they existed in the 70s with 70s production and 70s attitudes, their material would resonate with me more. Alas...
Recently I deactivated Twitter and Instagram, my two most-used social media platforms. I kept YouTube, which is not really in the same category of social media, though it can be just as toxic. And I joined Mastodon.
These days, Twitter is in the news for reasons you probably are well aware of. A lot of people are jumping ship. It's turning into a real shit show over there. Sad. Tragic. Instagram is okay, but it's transformed into a meme depository, whereas it was once a place to post and peruse cool images. Also sad. If not tragic.
I remember MySpace (which somehow still exists!) being such a thrill back in the mid 2000s. I was learning how to use Pro Tools, recording some songs and feeling pretty good about sharing them. One of my songs from those days, "Maximum You," was named GarageBand.com's "Track Of The Day." MySpace was emerging as the perfect place for bands and artists to create digital habitats and promote themselves online. It was so cool to be able to upload tracks into the player, making them available for anyone in the world to hear.
A lot of the music I made in those days emerged just so I could have something to post on MySpace. I ended up making a little EP that I never considered fully finished. I called it Solving For X. All those songs used to be on MySpace. Now they only exist in dusty corners of various hard drives.
I was making music as "Ajax The Dog" back then. Ajax was my boyhood German Shepherd. Such a good doggie. This was before I developed my distaste for solo artists using band names for their individual projects.
Maybe I can dig those songs out and release them somewhere. Annie and I listened to some of them on an old CD from an ancient collection during our trip through the Pacific Northwest last year. They sounded pretty good! Yes, our Subaru has a CD player. Far out, right?
Of course, the mid 2000s is when a lot of my troubles began to become acute. Right around 30 years old. I found it increasingly difficult to support myself. Increasingly embarrassed about my situation. Increasingly ashamed and unable to seek help. My hierarchy of needs was crumbling. The freedom to make music and fuck around with shit like MySpace disappeared. I could not afford to have internet access anymore anyway. I could barely afford to do anything. This is when my car got repossessed. When I was evicted from my apartment. Those dark, dark Madison days.
Twitter arrived shortly after I found a way back on my feet, sorta. Access to the internet again. I was getting into the show LOST. I was getting into podcasts. I even started one of my own. Twitter plugged me into the conversations I felt like I was missing out on. I set up Tweetdeck with multiple columns. I started thinking about music again. I joined a band. I set up that band's Twitter account.
Then John got sick. My brother. This was in 2010. This was when everything shifted. Again. Priorities changed. Relationships shifted. I took on heavy responsibilities. My brother died. It hurt so bad. My poor parents. Still hurts. Still feeling the shocks. So much less gravity now.
I settled in New Mexico about six months after John passed away. That first year was hard. I found myself in the middle of deteriorating relationship that was never very structurally sound to begin with. Found myself unable to make music, create or do much of anything. I had moved more than a thousand miles away from my place of origin and I found myself requiring even more transformation.
Eventually I got my own place. I remembered what it was like to be myself again; the relationship I had been in was toxic and destructive. For both parties. Music came back. I wrote some songs. I resurrected my Twitter account, which had been dormant since my brother got sick.
I reconnected with people. People who thought I had disappeared forever and-or died. I unfollowed some folks. Followed some others. Came up with some jokes and stuff. Paid attention to current events. Felt plugged in. Started seeing a path to creative success via online interaction. Participated in those goddamn hashtag wars.
Then came the dating apps. Which brought Annie into my life. And then Instagram. And then I had places to share my shit again. Which inspired me to sharpen my chops. I started going to open mics. Started getting serious about songwriting again. Started sharing my songs and performances on social media. Built my website. The blog. The podcast. The motherfucking Matt Kollock empire!
And then the pandemic. The misinformation. The crumbling of communities. Recorded and released my record. Couldn't play any of the songs live for anyone. Twitter got shitty. Instagram got meme-y. Realized no one sees my stuff. If they do, they are just scrolling past. Just like I do. Just like everyone does.
How to cut through the noise? How to be heard? How to be placed in the proper context? How do I do that stuff?
It got to the point where social media became a source of fuel for emotional disregulation. But I'm a musician with stuff to promote! So I decided to put my energy into this website; the one you're visiting now. Blogging as much as possible. Considering how to return to the podcast. Tending to the part of the garden I can touch, as it were.
And at this time, Mastodon started popping up in my awareness. My decision to deactivate coincided with the swift decline of Twitter, which is now a right-wing anti vax diaper fire. Making the appeal of Mastodon even more powerful: Decentralized! Fun! Egalitarian and shit! No advertisers! No right-wing garbage! Maybe it would be like how Twitter used to be.
So I signed up.
Right now, I'm about to switch instances (or servers; still not sure what the actual proper nomenclature is). I started out on a music-focused server (mastodonmusic.social). But now I realize I want to be on a more general-interest type of instance. There's lots of stuff I want to, uh, "toot" about on the platform; not just music. I don't think it actually matters? But something tells me the experience will be superior on a bigger, more well-resourced server. So I'm going to read an article that explains the process and then I'm going to come back here when I'm done. Hang on...
All right. As my original server's account archives, I'll let you know that Mastodon has been pretty cool thus far. I've been getting little hits that remind me of that time in 2009 when I first signed up for Twitter. Just lots of cool people sharing cool shit. It's fun. The absence of the algorithm is felt. Which is mostly good. I don't feel triggered all the time. I don't feel like I'm being worked up into a lather by a robot. I'm seeing stuff on my timeline that interests me. Stuff that's just humorous or inspiring or interesting. It doesn't have to be inflammatory. I'm liking it. I've been sharing stuff on there, too, and getting some nice feedback. People are seeing my posts. Clicking on links and things. I'm not getting buried or shadow banned.
I think I've "tooted" 18 times so far. About twice per day since I've signed up. Up to 16 followers. Following, like, 75 accounts. Noticing more and more familiar avatars from Twitter. The migration.
On the negative side, the vibe is definitely white, nerdy and twee. Not seeing many people of color. A lot of well-meaning white folks sharing white stuff created by other white folks who never realize how white they've made their worlds because they never hang out with non white folks. A lot of them are socialists with angular haircuts and stuff, which may make you think they are down, but no. There but for the grace of God go I and all that, but yeah. It's like that.
So I'm going to try to find and follow more people of color. Boost their toots and stuff. Toot about the Black and Brown creators who influence me and stuff like that. Hold my fellow white folks accountable, to the extent that it is possible, when they get up to some bullshit. Hold myself accountable, too.
I guess the other thing is the decentralization. It sounds just so utopian and perfect. But it's also the reason why people see an insurmountable barrier between themselves and having an account on Mastodon. It's weird and difficult to understand. I barely understand this shit. And it was not easy to figure out exactly how to get set up. But this is a feature, not a bug! Right? Yeah, I don't know. I'm here to learn, though.
Okay. Let me see if my archive has updated...
All right. Well. That was not completely painless. But it's done.
You can find me at @MattKollock@mas.to. Groovy.
I had to refollow everybody I had been following before. None of my previous posts migrated. Actually, I'm not even sure if that's a thing. This whole independent-federated-servers-in-a-decentralized-network deal is pretty challenging. Yeah, I'm here for the revolution, but geez. Everything seems like it involves some weird extra step. Here we are, though. I am open. I am participating. I am not a curmudgeon. I am not a luddite.
Oh fuck, now I'm realizing I have to refollow all the goddamn hashtags I'd been following, too. Fuck. Technology! Decentralization! The future! Fuck!
Am I a luddite after all?
Anyway... I think I'm going to stay put on this current server. See if I can build a following. Build some healthy habits, too.
It's so quiet over on Mastodon. Getting a little louder, I guess, but there are times when I look at the timeline of (supposedly) every single toot that gets tooted, and it isn't always a raging river of content. Whole seconds go by sometimes without posts coming through. Interesting.
I intend to use Mastodon to help me with my music career. What else is there? Hopefully I can build a little following. Get some new people to sign up for my email list and visit the website. Get some more people into the music. Sell some records. Get some more followers on Spotify and the other streaming services. Get people to read the blog and comment on it. Share my shit. The usual stuff. Post some cool pics. Show everyone what Mantequilla is up to. All that.
And I want to find cool people. My people. The others. You know? The people who share my sense of humor and sensibilities around art. Those folks. Are they there? Are they on their way there? Not sure.
I'll be there, though. You know where to find me. Toot you later!