Crossposted from https://cohost.org/hm29168/post/1000105-not-just-a-cohost-b
Ok now that I’ve officially posted more on cohost than I have on Tumblr, I think it’s time for me to actually write the media studies blogpost of how I feel about this medium and how it feels a different sort of home-y from the usual places I’ve inhabited.
tl;dr — in a unique sort of way to the web, Cohost feels like a place where text is loved, especially in all its weird twists and turns. That’s a place where I feel like I belong.
I’ve previously talked about my engagement with social media here, through the lens of my digital guinea pig bots. In that post, I discuss two major themes throughout my Internet usage:
- I am more comfortable being public in a text-based medium
- weird Internet ghost towns (or places where you can curate your followers and be certain there are few of them / you know all of them) gives you freedom to be more open.
This tracks with how I used Tumblr. I never counted it as one of my social media sites because I only lurked on the platform. My go-to joke is that I came into Tumblr on high school, looking for fanart and left with an understanding of Gender Theory 101. More specifically, Tumblr was mainly where all of the people doing Homestuck fanart or Sherlock theorycrafting that I liked was, so I used Tumblr as a way to see those people. It took me a long time to make an account because before, I would just go to individual pages until the number got so big, that I was like “hmm, maybe there’s an interface already designed for you to hold on to all of the Tumblr pages you like”.
Even when I did make an account, I never really used it how it was intended. I always felt the feed page was too mishmash-y because of the general weirdness that I followed — some porn, smashed together with a joke about Phoenix Wright, smashed together with “Do you love the color of the sky”, smashed together with a rant about gender norms. I continued to use Tumblr as a bookmarking service: going to my empty Tumblr page that was barely modified from the default HTML so that I could click on the sidebar of “who you’re following” and visit individual people. I only really started to use the infinite feed of the front page when that sidebar HTML feature stopped working, and then the feed was just nothing but doomscrolling.
I also talked about specifically why I did not want to be on Twitter here, in the context of my Jeopardy paper being published. The themes in that post are:
- Twitter is only fun if there’s a context collapse between the personal and the professional. This is bad for harassment and for giving you the space to fail gracefully
- Twitter’s product is FOMO. This is bad for getting caught up in inane scandals that have nothing to do with you, and also makes you feel like you could Always Be Closing.
- I’ve suffered a lot of harassment even not being on Twitter, and I’m not intentionally signing up for more!
I briefly tried to use Mastodon when SIPB set up an instance back in 2017 or so. While it’s hard to tease out how much my limited usage was because of network effects, I think it’s also more about the medium itself limiting discussions and breaking up conversations. There’s still a neat discussion I had with V on there about presence-based media that I still really want to dig up and revisit, but it makes me “ugh” when I think about how hard it was to have that conversation and how little I want to deal with the interface again 
What do I see on Cohost?
Now that I’ve been here on Cohost for a few months (which was really jumpstarted by @xenofem ‘s recommendations on who to follow (thanks!)), I feel like I’ve finally got my bearings in this place. I knew that I was going to like Cohost better than Twitter/Mastodon because of the focus on long-form content, but I wasn’t expecting my relationship to be much different from how I used Tumblr. I was pleasantly surprised to see the emphasis on text make me feel like I found a public medium suited for me.
My Cohost feed looks like 10-20 posts a day in the following topics:
- Weird code stuff that happened, intentionally or not
- Thoughtful takes on media and the internet
- Little bots / people acting like bots that give poetry. Maybe not intentionally, but there’s something I love of having the flow of posts get broken up with pictures like @objects or @ExtremelyGoodProductPhotos or @endingsummary
My friend M said that part of the reason that I might be encountering more poetry and experimental media on here is that people who are engaging in more traditional forms of media, like visual art or, idk, academic papers, still very much rely on the market / network effects from their existing platforms. They can’t afford to risk the income loss of going to such a weird little niche platform, while the people who
This still doesn’t explain the little weird corner of video game Cohost I see popping up. I’ve been a long time fan of Giant Bomb, but the Jeff Gerstmann and Austin Walker I see on here are different from the parasocial times that I saw on camera. I love that @jeffgerstmann feels comfortable posting his off-the-cuff dad-ly remarks and that @austin gets to share more of his literary critiques. I know Brian David Gilbert has talked about how freeing it is to not talk about video games constantly as your public persona but instead be the weirdo in your heart that you’ve always been, and I feel happy seeing that the parasocial folks I’ve followed for years seem to also be expressing the same thing.
How do I want to curate my Cohost?
All those words later, the question now becomes how do I want to use this weird thing. The interactions available to me are post (which takes time), reblog (which will have consequences both to my page and to my followers), and like (which idk what this is used for).
On Tumblr, people would beg others to not just click the “like” button if they liked the art, but to reblog to increase the visibility of the art work. I understood the market effects that lead to that beg, but I never really felt the compulsion to do so. It’s one thing to put the art in the world, but it’s another thing to be like “here’s art that I want YOU, my followers to also partake in”. I never really had a sense of aesthetic that I wanted to curate or art / takes that I wanted to promote, so I don’t really know what people would even want from me. So, it was easier to just define myself as a lurker and merely hide.
Meanwhile, for Cohost, the same thing kind of happened. Longform takes that I liked would get shared as a link on my social Discord or 1:1 chats with friends. Fun visual gags that didn’t need as much of the extra context would get shared directly to friends as well. Maybe this is bad in the same Tumblr way because I’m limiting the discoverability / reach of neat things, but that’s genuinely the way that I feel compelled to share the content that I see.
In both cases, the thing that discouraged me from just blindly reblogging thing that I like is this sense of curation. I actually unfollowed someone whose takes I enjoy but I was (a) annoyed by their reblogs and (b) got most of what they said anyways because a friend would keep reblogging them. Since there are only 10-20 new posts a day, it’s really obvious when you bypass the same takes over and over again or find that your feed is being dominated by only one really loud voice. It gives you an interesting sense of the extent of your echo chamber that I didn’t quite feel on Tumblr or Twitter/Mastodon even in the “do you love the color of the sky” era (although granted, I used all those platforms in weird ways).
And yet! Despite all of this baggage, I’ve been surprised by the memes that I do feel compelled to share on Cohost for Cohost people. Yes, it’s memes, but they’re weird memes. Yes, it’s low quality content, but it’s a specific type that’s hard to put my finger on. I know I’m making a big deal out of me reblogging a grand total of 2 posts, but it’s interesting enough and out of character enough for me that I’ve decided to write 1600+ words about the concept.
For now, I’m very happy to be here. I like checking on Cohost every few days or so and storing up longform posts for when I have the time on the subway to read them. I like being on a place that so clearly cares about text, that feels comfortable writing posts with nuance, that doesn’t mind being a little weird and out there. I’m not sure if I would want to make the monkey paw wish of “I wish there were more people on here”, but for now, I love this cozy Cohome.
: Now that I’m actually doing the work and writing this post, man, I need to port my WordPress blog into something actually Markdown because typing this up is a joy. I’m in the process of turning my main website into Markdown, but now seriously thinking about doing the same for my blog. The main thing stopping me is private post visibility, so I might take the lazy option and just use Markdown still in WordPress but if other folks have ideas, let me know!
: While writing this, I saw that Jeff actually recently posted something that was kind of thinking about medium specificity. Great minds think alike???