My online social life is almost all on the Fediverse (obligatory plug for our member-owned co-op Mastodon instance) and I find it generally satisfying. But back in early September, I noticed that my feed was extremely male-dominated. I set out to fix that and — a rare piece of good news — it worked! Herewith methods and numbers.
Numbers · I wish I’d been a little more careful before I started this, as in recording the gender ratio in my feed at a more sophisticated level than “seems to be mostly men”. And also noting how many people I was following. Oh well, rear-view is 20/20.
Late Friday afternoon, I scrolled back an hour and a bit in my feed and categorized 205 posts as “men”, “women”, and “neutral”. Here’s what I found.
So, mission somewhat accomplished. Note that the percentages of accounts and posts are about the same; no evidence here that either gender is more prolific.
Methods · Almost every day, I pop open my Mastodon “Notifications” tab, go through it, and gender-check any account who’s followed or replied or liked or boosted but I don’t already follow. Intermittently and unsystematically, I do the same for boosted posts from people I don’t follow. If they’re female, and they’ve ever actually posted or boosted, I follow them.
What does “gender-check” mean, exactly? I try to err on the side of inclusion. If you offer “she/her” pronouns, OK. If your avatar is a wombat or a potato but your name is “Cynthia”, yep. If you have neither pronouns nor a feminine account name, I take a look at your avatar through cisgendered heterosexual male eyes and make a judgment call. So scientific.
I’ve subsequently unfollowed a small handful of women for the usual reasons.
Findings · My feed is different than it used to be. I find that I lack the words to describe the difference, even vaguely. But, I’ve no urge to go back. Oh, my progressive bubble is bubblier; the Fediverse’s women are a lefty lot.
Wow, are there ever a lot of trans women here. And lesbians. But we already knew that.
Next · I have a huge advantage because I’m a loudmouth who’s been doing social media for decades, so my Notifications tab is rarely empty. Which means that the people I add have already chosen to interact with me and are thus likely to intersect with my interests. So I’m not sure this would work for the many people who are read-mostly, or who are still building their audience.
Now I’m feeling an obligation to find a good way to help feminize others’ feeds. But I’m nervous about over-curating; why should I think that the people who interest me would do the same for others? Would it be crazy to, every week, pick a dozen random female accounts that I follow and post them to a #FollowFriday? At the moment, I can’t think of anything better.
But I do recommend that other high-interaction people give this a try. It’s easy and if you’re like me you won’t want to go back to a mostly-male feed.