"But my friends aren't on there!"Sun 29 January 2023 by R.L. Dane
Promoting ethical alternatives to unethical social media
Unfortunately, every decision we make in the real world has consequences and ethical implications. Do you buy that bigger house/rent that bigger flat or make do and have more to donate to worthy causes? Do you buy a car, try to get an electric car, or just try to get on with taking public transport? There are no easy answers, and yet the difficulty of making ethical choices in an impossibly unethical world is no excuse for not trying. How we live and conduct our lives on the outside is of great import. No less how we conduct our digital lives, and the platforms we select for interacting with people in the digital realm. When we allot zero mental bandwidth for considering these implications, we consign both ourselves and our generation to the fate of those who chose the path of least resistance — a most undesirable end.
I often am confronted with others’ attitude that seeking less well-known but more ethical options in digital spaces is somehow silly or odd, yet few would be so gauche as to say the same thing about recycling, choosing to take public transit, using renewable energy/transportation, or any other practical, real-world ethical choice (at least, few outside of the part of the world I live in 🤦🏻♂️).
I think the best way to render something considered fringe to others normative is to speak of it in a normative fashion, and to do so often. Rather than preaching the relative merits of Mastodon, PeerTube, Pixelfed, and the Fediverse at large (or decrying the endless list of digital atrocities of ZuccyBoi, MelonHusk, et al.), simply refer to Fediverse alternatives to privacy-invasive online services as you would just another viable brand — because that’s precisely what they are: viable. Usable. Worthwhile. Reliable. Can largely peer-funded and run Free and Open online services fill the same role as those provided by GOOG, AMZN, or META? Will they fit all of the same use-cases and every need of every user? Of course not, no more than a local glass blower can compete with bulk, discount manufacturers in Asia. But that’s not the point — the local glass blower, painter, and potter still get patronage based on the value they bring their buyers: not monetary value for the most part, but a more intrinsic, nebulous sense of value: namely the customer’s joy of use/possession of something crafted with thought, purpose, and skill, as well as the knowledge that their patronage is contributing to the well-being of a neighbor, not the soaring, mindless, mercenary ambitions of a soulless corporation.
Honest and real conversation with friends and loved ones will convey the value of open and privacy-respecting services more than an orderly presentation of their merits (or certainly any self-righteous diatribe) ever could.
Finally, what is the answer to the quintessential complaint: “but my friends aren’t on there?” Simply put: Your friends aren’t going anywhere, and you can still visit them on failbook/failwhale whenever you want, but you may find you enjoy it less once you experience social media that isn’t designed to make you constantly angry or depressed in order to “drive more engagement” and turn more profit. Furthermore, of course your friends are on Mastodon/Pleroma/Peertube/Funkwhale/etc. You just haven’t met them yet! 😀