As Twitter continues to burn, those who held on to hope that a navel-gazing billionaire with far-right leanings would come to his senses seemed to finally admit that now was the time to catch the last lifeboat off of that sinking ship. Many of us had already decided to cut our losses early and find a new home regardless of the ultimate outcome because if we were wrong, we could always go back and pick up where we left off, but if we were right, we didn’t want to have to scramble at the 11th hour. Now is that 11th hour as accounts that had been previously banned during — hindsight is a bitch — “good” Twitter have been given the green light to return now to “bad Twitter”.
For most of those holdouts, the Twitter alternative for them seemed to come out of left field in the form of a new, mobile-only app called Hive. As of right now, Hive seems to be ad-free and independent, and because it operates much like a mix between Twitter and Instagram, it’s got a language that is easy for people to understand.
As is customary, I signed up for a Hive account for the usual “squatting my name” reasons, but also because I saw a lot of folks who had been left on Twitter announcing that they were moving to Hive. As I maintain a Facebook account to keep tabs on people with whom I have no other online connection, I planned to use Hive in at least the same capacity.
When I first landed on Hive, I was asked to pick three of my favorite topics, so I picked “gaming”, “tech”, and “wholesome” which was exactly how I had tried to shape my Twitter feed.
The first page of the app presented me with a wall of image tiles that started with “trending”, followed by “for you”, “new”, and then a list of other subjects. Each section was presented horizontally, allowing me to scroll to the right to see the most recent highlights of that category.
Clicking a category header brought me into another tile gallery, which scrolls vertically. Each of these images is a post, and when clicked, brings up a more traditional Twitter-slash-Instagram (or Tumblr, depending on your age bracket) view.
There’s the usual assortment of buttons for likes, reshares, and comments (which are threaded, which is nice, and which can accept images and GIFs themselves, which is also nice), and the ability to share outside of the app. Hashtags are respected and are used to sort posts into categories and to speed discovery if you’re looking for something specific.
Many people moving to Hive direct from Twitter seem to be content with their new home, claiming that it is the closest analogue to Twitter available to date. Posting is easy, searching for ex-mutuals is easy, and once you start following people, the “home page” changes from the wall of discovery to a list of posts by the people you follow.
The Editorial Part of the Post
Whether a person takes to Hive or not depends on what they want their social media experience to be. There’s an old guard among us who remember the days of long-form posts at G+, and because that was our jam, we have set up shop in the MastoVerse. There are those among us who prefer to keep their interactions light, maybe to have a place to post screenshots or to have their social experience be limited to a quick scroll through while standing in line for a latte. Hive is well suited to the “get in, get out” system that Twitter had become as it morphed over time from a “micro-blogging” site into an “engine of self-promotion”.
Hoping to find some kind of interesting engagement in the “gaming” or “tech” sections on Hive was a fool’s errand. The gaming section is completely given over to Twitch streamer advertising and tangential cosplay. The tech section is loaded with crypto and NFT talk and cross-pollinates with streamer advertisements. In fact, in scrolling through the discovery categories, it seems that people are gaming the system via hashtags, as I’m seeing all kinds of posts showing up in multiple categories, most of which they have no business being in. This kind of makes division by genre rather pointless.
People like to defend their choices, which is why I’ve seen as many people on MastoVerse slagging Hive as I’ve seen people on Hive slagging the MastoVerse. Everyone wants to be sure they’ve made the “right decision”, and doubling-down often gives us that feeling of affirmation that convinces us that yeah, we did the right thing.
As a MastoVerse supporter who tried to acclimate three times prior to the current era, I can understand how Mastodon — and the concept of the Fediverse — is a steep hill to climb, but in reality, it’s no more complex than anything else we’ve all encountered in the 21st century once we get the hang of it. But many people are, to quote a timeless phrase, “getting too old for this shit”, and having to climb any hill is just asking too much. There’s a philosophical discussion in here about the nature of parasocial relationships that I am not one to comment on, but I’ll leave it hanging for those who wish to contemplate such a thing.
As much as I want to (and have, as recently as two paragraphs ago) defend the MastoVerse and bad-mouth Hive, I don’t think I can, or that I should. Yes, I wish those who waited until the last minute to jump from Twitter to Hive had just put in the effort to try Mastodon one last time so we could all be together again, but that’s selfish and strictly for my own benefit. The Mastodon of today is not the Mastodon of [insert time frame when last attempt was made to “use” Mastodon]. Depending on your point of view, it’s either better because of so many Twitter people rushing in or is worse for the same reason.
Once set up with people to follow, Hive works more or less as advertised, minus the growing pains of being suddenly hit with thousands of new arrivals. I think the main problem for me is that Hive is really a smaller Instagram, which we already have in a more mature form. There is some “ground-floor-ness” involved here, but aside from that, I’m not sure why people don’t just use Instagram.
Outside of the curated feed, though, things get markedly worse. For one, it seems to be a self-promotion magnet. It’s wall-to-wall Twitch streamers which, I guess, is fine if you’re looking for that kind of discovery, but not so good if you’re looking to organically grow your circle. Another issue is that people seem to be “gaming” hashtags. I’m seeing posts cross-cutting categories, filled to the brim with every variation of hashtag available. This is really the fault of trying to get a community to self-organize, as the categories are kind of pointless when met with the human propensity to “want to fuck shit up”. There’s also a lot of NSFW content, much of which isn’t being hidden behind the NSFW switch, something I assume based on the fact that I have the “don’t show NSFW” setting turned on but am still seeing very NSFW content across all categories. They also have a prominant “astrology” category and a slot for setting your astrological sign in your profile, which…doesn’t make me think of Hive in a professional sense.
Although I am pretty cavaliere with my online presence (my name is not exactly un-common, lending a shade of “security through obscurity”) and don’t usually pay attention to what goes on behind the curtain unless it reaches human-rights violation levels (which is why we’re all in this mess), questions raised about Hive: The Business do have me concerned a bit. The story is that the platform is owned and operated by just two people, although there are whispers that this is a facade story that isn’t being disabused by the principals. They claim to have received first round funding from an unnamed source, but there’s been no recent word on funding for the platform going forward. On one hand we could chalk this up to Hive being thrust into the limelight so suddenly, leaving the operators little time to get their debut monologues in order. On the other hand, where did Hive come from, and why had no one heard about it before everyone heard about it at the exact same time? And isn’t adopting Hive trading one centrally controlled social media platform where the users are the currency for another?
Although I have thrown my loyalty to the MastoVerse, I would like Hive to pan out and be as above-board as it currently seems in part because I know it is the “platform of last resort” for many people on Twitter, and if it ends up collapsing or being disingenuous, then I don’t know what those people will end up doing. I might be convinced to lightly use it if the platform matures, adds a web client (at least), and figures out how to enforce its own TOS.