After another successful Association for Learning Technology conference, their 23rd, that this year marked the charity’s 30th anniversary, I reflect here on one aspect of my involvement – my online social media interactions
This has been my fourth visit to the ALT summer conference over the years and the fact that three of those have been when it has been hosted by Warwick University (and that is close to home for me) is no coincidence – two of those events were whilst I worked at Warwick Business School too.
Whether my involvement has been as an in-person delegate, a member of the conference committee, charity trustee, or online until this year one thing has always remained true – my use of Twitter enabled me to get so much more from the event and people than the years when I didn’t use it.
So, with 2023 and this celebratory year, I feel I’ve missed out. I am not using Twitter any more. I decided earlier this year that I needed a break from the toxicity and doomscrolling, and never seemed to go back. Why, when I was feeling happier, would I deliberately put myself back into that toxic relationship?
But the downside to this choice is the disconnect I now feel with the community and twirl I’ve spent so many years building. Yes, I’m as active as ever (perhaps more so) on LinkedIn, but I don’t feel it’s the place for the shorter, punchier, less formal or less professional content that I would share and engage with on Twitter. The sun up to ALTC this year has been good, but I know I’ve missed out on the build-up.
And this brings me to Mastodon. I’m trying to find my place on Mastodon, trying to find a use for it. But I freely acknowledge it isn’t a replacement for Twitter no matter how he’s I try and make it work like that for me, or how much I want it to be the replacement.
I was very impressed with ALTs use of, and engagement with, Mastodon in the run-up and during the event, but I know (from experience) there would’ve been more of this on Twitter. During the three-day event, I think I found a few more people on Mastodon I hadn’t found previously, so I’ve been able to extend my network a bit more.
But, here’s the thing. Whilst there is still a healthy user base on Twitter, and many are comfortable using it, before I left I saw a drop in the volume of conversations and general connections, not to say the standard in genuine conversations over just publication and promotion. Yes, this happens everywhere, and you could argue that LinkedIn is taking the strain more and more from people looking for somewhere to go after Twitter. But I’d argue that Mastodon could be that place.
You can connect to people and organisations (only those that are on Mastodon, obviously) as well as hashtags for events, chats, topics and subject areas … much the same as Twitter. The fediverse is
“a collection of protocols, servers, and users. Together, these form networks that can communicate with one another … content you post is federated, meaning that once one network is aware of your content, it can pass that content to another network, which passes it to another, and so on.”‘A 5-minute tour of the Fediverse’
Importantly, the fediverse cannot be owned or controlled by one person or one organisation.
So, let’s see what we can do with Mastodon. As a community. As a network. It isn’t Twitter and that’s a good thing, but there’s enough scope for us to make it work for us, for engagement and collaboration, for sharing and support, for professional and informal connections. For us.