Author’s Note: This post previously said that I would be leaving Fosstodon. After some deliberation and consideration, and a commendable effort towards reparations, I’ve decided to stay with the instance. I feel like I can do more good by staying, learning, and educating others of what I’ve learned. I know the Fosstodon folks trust me and my point of view, and that is more valuable than segregating myself from the community. Fosstodon still has growing to do, but I feel like this sets the tone for the future in a positive way.
This essay was written by me, Brandon Nolet, in the context that I
will be would have been leaving Fosstodon as an instance.
Recently, an admin of the Fosstodon Mastodon instance made some comments that were disparaging to marginalized folk. The comment was relating to how they wish that a thicker skin would be adopted by some of the people they called “snowflakes”.
As some may know, this term snowflake is used in an attempt disparage and invalidate the opinions of individuals perceived as being irrationally sensitive. Oftentimes this term is applied to marginalized folk. Marginalization is the act of treating someone as insignificant or peripheral. By this definition, that logic, and this context, the admin in question has certainly marginalized some folk.
This toot then went on to create a kerfuffle in the fediverse prompting other admins to block and defederate from Fosstodon.
Code of Conduct
A Code of Conduct’s purpose is to provide a guide as to how someone should act when participating in a given project. In the guide you’ll find things that are prohibited, encouraged, and or frowned upon. A Code of Conduct might also define punishments for not following the guidelines previously stated.
The Fosstodon Code of Conduct states that name-calling should be avoided and that Fosstodon is “committed to making participation in Fosstodon an oppression-free experience for everyone, regardless of level of experience, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, personal appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or nationality.” This should include people with seemingly irrational levels of sensitivity.
As an Admin
If any regular ol’ user of Fosstodon were to say such things as this Admin did, then it might not be as big of a deal. When you are an admin, however, you have a certain designation as the representative of the community. What you say is and will always be reflected upon with Fosstodon as an instance in mind.
Taking that into consideration, anything you say or do has to be representative of the community you’re trying to foster. Your statements should be in line with the Code of Conduct and should not be breaking said Code of Conduct. If, as an admin, you’re breaking the CoC then you’re basically giving license to anyone else who’s a part of the community to break the CoC as well.
When others see this type of post, from an admin, it’s hard to believe that the community that falls under the admin’s jurisdiction is any different. It’s also hard to believe that, in that light, the Fosstodon community fosters ‘radical inclusivity’. So people in the future might steer away from Fosstodon and go somewhere else instead.
As we’re yet to see any sort of response on this event, I can’t comment on the position that that admin is likely to take. We can imagine what might be said if the position currently held is going to stand strong and we can imagine what renegging on that position might look like, but we don’t know what side the admin will lean towards. If this admin chooses to apologize without making excuses left right and center about why they made that comment, then I would think that the situation could be resolved. Too often I find that people accept some sort of apology that basically reads “I’m sorry you were offended,” and considering the situation, that would be sad to see. I’d certainly like to see something more along the lines of “I’m sorry, I was unaware of the harm this created and I’ll try to do better” I would consider that heartfelt and genuine. It takes a lot more effort to take a situation and learn from it than to make excuses for yourself and try to pass off your behaviour as acceptable. I received a response from the admin on the lines of ‘stop with this senstionalist bullshit’.
A considerable response from the admin was posted to the Fosstodon blog. To summarize, the admin has learned from the situation and learned that the message he put out was far from the message that was received. I won’t elaborate too much here, you can read their response on the Fosstodon blog.
As we round to the actual point of this post, I’d like to express why I will change instances. By staying under the Fosstodon community banner I’d be a part of a community that, by the admin’s admission, is not inclusive. By staying and ignoring the stain that has been placed on the Fosstodon I’m becoming implicit in that exclusion, because I’ve done nothing to stop said exclusion.
Even if I tell the admin that their words are harmful, there still remains the action of the admin to acknowledge that they’ve done wrong and make corrective actions in tow. And if the acknowledgement never comes and I stay on Fosstodon then I’m implying that I endorse, implicitly, the behaviour that’s occurring and everything else that I mentioned in this post.
So all that to say, I might change instances, depending on how the admin reacts. If there’s apology and whatnot, maybe I’ll stay. If they step down, then I might just stay as well. But if there’s reiteration and argument towards the current status of the situation, then I’ll be changing instances to something that’s a little more inclusive.
I won’t be changing instances in the end, as I think it would be more beneficial for all involved for me to stay. That is not to say I think that the response was adequate, just that I think there’s lots of potential for improvement. Leaving would be an implication on my part that I think that improvement cannot be made, and that is simply not true at this point.
Since writing this post (but not having published it yet) I’ve received some criticism about my motives for this decision. I’ve been accused of trying to co-opt this event for publicity and for my own personal gain.
I’d like to dispell that right now by saying that that is not my intent. I hardly benefit from changing instances and from the beginning my potential instance change has been conditional to the admin’s response. I have to make the effort to inform everyone that I’ve moved to a new handle, I have to start from ‘0’ followers again and start with very little interaction from the fediverse again. I have to change all the logins for a primary account on all the clients I use Mastodon with (including the various computers I use) and I have to research which instance I’m going to join.
I’m not after fame, nor am I after fortune. If I was, I’d still be on more mainstream platforms where a lot more people are throwing around much larger wads of cash. I don’t syndicate my blog, I’ve asked for donations maybe four times total, and never in a concerted effort. The content I produce so often these days is the byproduct of a challenge of discipline. If I was after the fame, I would be writing on other people’s blogs regularly, I would be collaborating with others who produce video content. I’m just not after those things, they’re not part of my genetic code.
In fact, amassing a large enough following for people to recognize me on the street and whatnot scares me. I value very highly my privacy and just because I share more about my life than the average person on Fosstodon doesn’t mean that isn’t true. I share with you all what I wish to share, and no more. If my following garnered enough attention for people to start prying into my personal life, I might just try to “start all over.” But that hasn’t and probably won’t happen, because I don’t try hard enough and refuse to for those reasons.
Any further discussion regarding my motives for this will be met with a mute or a block, depending on the severity of the accusations. I don’t take kindly to ad hominem attacks.
I want to be clear: I don’t think that that admin is a bad person. Far from it. I like that admin as a person and think that this could be a moment for a lot of personal development. It’s just hard to accept this kind of stance to be taken as an admin of this community that so prominently claims to be radically inclusive.
As well, I do not aim to ostracize anyone who decides to stay on Fosstodon. I love all you peeps and you’re still all good people in my eyes :)
So far I’ve got two or three other instances that I’m thinking of joining, both relating to Linux and/or Technology. I have to wait until I get to work to decide which instance I take as I want ensure being able to access the instance from within my organization’s network. ’m not happy about this change but the bright side is that it’ll give me a fresh perspective in the fediverse and will push me to meet new people I might not have met before.