I’ve always had a mixed relationship with social media. Mixed in that I’ve had accounts on most of the big ones going back to my old IRC days, but rarely contributed to the spaces. I’m a lurker.

(Side Note: Joanne McNeil’s 2020 book, Lurking: How a Person Became a User, is an excellent read, and her first novel, Wrong Way, is sitting in my to-read pile currently.)

In the early days, it never felt right to jump into the conversations. I felt like I’d be intruding on something to which I was not explicitly invited. So I just lurked, doing my best to learn from information shared by others.

That all changed with Facebook. I was in college when Facebook launched. But not at an Ivy League school, so it was a bit more full-formed when it came to my campus. But I joined in the days when it was still locked to colleges. And honestly, it was fun. Here was a community that I already knew. These weren’t strangers, they were people I knew, people I’d seen walking around in their pajamas.

But we all know where this went. Today’s Facebook is a far cry from what it was back then. And I haven’t touched it in years as a result.

Then came Twitter. As an early adoptee, I got to see a different thing than what exists today (or even a different thing from what existed pre-X). It was small. It was jokey. And it was fun. And we were all kind of new there, so we all just chatted.

(I have a point here. I promise. We’re almost there.)

And now of course there is the Fediverse. I’ve been on Mastodon for a while now, again mostly as a lurker. And the feeling has always been, for me, a bit of a mix between my experiences with IRC and Twitter. I’ve learned so much watching conversations unfold and following links that others so helpfully shared. But I’ve been hesitant to jump in.

In many ways, social media has always felt like shouting into a cave. You say your piece loudly, and listen to see if anything comes back beyond your own echo. And it all comes down to which cave you decide to shout into.

For the first time in quite a while, I’ve found a cave I like.

Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time. I engaged with strangers on social media. And it was wonderful. I posted links to these blog posts on Mastodon, and people I’d never spoken with before started saying hi. Some were even people who have been inspiring me with their own writing. I cannot overstate how awesome and inspiring that experience was. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

So here’s my point. Pick your cave. Shout into all of them if you have to, just to hear what comes back. But when you find something better than the echo of your own voice, you’ll know you’ve found something special.