Edward Ficklin

We are not free labor, we are not the product!

publishedabout 2 months ago
3 min read

Darlings, how are you? So glad you’re here and a big welcome to those just joining us. Today’s Dispatch is veering into techno-territory and going to get a bit complicated. (And no pictures. I'll make it up to you.) I hope you’ll trust me enough to dive in and see that it’s worth it. A glorious transformation is on the horizon.

We can all agree that social media is a mess. It has opened up amazing avenues connection and collaboration that never existed before. It has also been coopted by corporate greed turning our creativity into free labor and our selves into a product to be sold to the highest bidder. Opting out completely would be hard. Running away is rarely the best answer.

There might be alternatives, ways to transform and restore.

For several years now, a quiet revolution has been taking place. It’s only with the very public meltdown of Twitter that a light has been shone upon the quiet little corners of the web where some smart and dedicated people have banded together to create something entirely new. And it’s called the “fediverse.” I know, darlings, a terrible name right out of the Star Trek Bargain Basement. Bear with me.

In the realm of social media we’re used to the idea of numerous platforms run by various companies coming and going—today it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter where in times past it was Friendster, MySpace, ICQ and so many others. Imagine that they weren’t competing (or colluding) businesses in a capitalistic hellscape but rather interoperating services: Log into Twitter, follow a Facebook friend, share an Instagram post all from one place, all in one app, on one timeline.

Take it a step further and imagine this network of networks built on and adhering to a set standard for interoperability that’s maintained by an international, non-governmental body. Add to that free, open source software that can be used to create an endless array of independent, collectively owned and operated social media. Let a thousand Twitters bloom!

Welcome to the fediverse. A network of decentralized, independent social media platforms willingly interoperating by adhering to protocols maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Mastodon is currently getting all the attention. You may have heard it touted as an alternative Twitter. It certainly is that, but more. Unlike Twitter, there’s actually thousands of Mastodons, “servers” they’re called, the vast majority running on donations and volunteer labor. Each has its own criteria for joining and rules for moderation. There are servers focused on art, technology, journalism, writing, and even, darlings, KINK!! Search a little and you can find your niche while at the same time being able to communicate and follow people on other servers within the fediverse—even on servers that aren’t Mastodon. As long as the other platform follows the conventions, you can connect.

So, does the fediverse present an opportunity for adventurous and technically adroit smut peddlers? Perhaps. Picture a small niche platform that sets its own community standards that are truly that—norms for the community, not a euphemism for censorship. Imagine, if you will, our own queer, smutty twittergram where we share our work, our thoughts, our selves without fear of algorithmic erasure, trolls, and weaponized reports. The community would be self-moderated so appeals, conversation, and learning could happen when conflicts arise. Harassment can be dealt with swiftly, maybe even proactively, ensuring way more safety than anything we have now. We dispense with the dehumanizing automated processes we’re subjected to on the commercial platforms. And, darlings, no ads! Let me say that again for those in the back of the room: NO ADS! And did I mention custom emoji?

While I’ve painted quite a rosy picture, creating and maintaining such a space online and interconnecting with thousands of others online communities, some healthy, some not so much, is helluva lotta work. For all the promise, there are perils to consider. In the next episode of the Dispatch we’ll dig into these concerns a little more.

I’ll also share some advice on how to get started in the fediverse. You may have been warned away by threats of “it’s complicated.” Yes, compared to Twitter or Instagram, it is more complicated. The payoff, however, is more control over the key aspects of your experience, communication, privacy, and safety.

In the meantime, if you’re already on Mastodon or another fediverse platform, hit me up at

Until next time, flame on! 🔥

This has been the Queer Quantum Dispatch, brought to you by artist Edward Ficklin. If you enjoyed it, smash the forward button and share the love. 💖 If you got this from a friend (and what a friend!) subscribe for more!