42 votes

Why do we use Tildes?

I'm not sure if this goes here or in ~talk, so if it needs moved, that's fine.


I've been thinking a lot, lately, about why I use Tildes.

As noted in my bio, I left Tildes for an extended period of time, after getting embroiled in some heavy arguments that, in the scheme of things, didn't matter. Such arguments consistently make me feel worse; I get into them on this account, too, though I do try to use uBlock Origin and the tag filter to keep out of the threads that will most obviously affect me.

But I can't seem to leave Tildes entirely. Even when I log out on all devices, I keep opening the site. Even when I had no account, I kept typing til<Enter> in the address bar and coming back.

So, why?

--

First, Tildes is what I love about the web. It's complete but uncluttered; it's featureful but not bloated; it uses client-side interactivity to improve the experience but does not break or reimpement default browser functionality. Overall, it's a good piece of software, designed to create, catalog, and discuss documents, like God Tim Berners-Lee intended.

Second, and more important, Tildes is a community. It's a community like my college dorm was a community; I know people here, and while I definitely don't like all of them, I recognize the personalities behind the names. Leaving, and diving mostly back into the world of Twitter and Mastodon where conversations are short, ephemeral, and deeply restricted, feels like losing relationships, no matter how damaging and negative some of those relationships are.

I don't know if gaining this understanding means I'll be able to - or even want to - drop the site again. We'll see. But I would love to know why y'all use it. Is it a community for you, too?

23 comments

  1. [4]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I haven’t found anywhere else on the internet where my commenting style is not just permitted but embraced. I used to get tl;dred on reddit all the time, and Twitter would barely permit me enough...
    • Exemplary

    I haven’t found anywhere else on the internet where my commenting style is not just permitted but embraced. I used to get tl;dred on reddit all the time, and Twitter would barely permit me enough characters to fit even one of my long, meandering sentences, but here nobody bats an eye if I drop a post that’s essentially its own article. Tildes lets me be the type of internet denizen I’ve always wanted to be but never had a space for.

    The site is beautiful and minimalistic and fast to load. I went on vacation over the summer to a place with terrible internet, and every other site online was unbearably slow to load because it was so heavy with ads, images, and videos. Tildes was the only site I read during that time because its page loads were as snappy as ever. (Side note: that vacation also made me appreciate the practice of quoting a few sentences/paragraphs in the article along with a submission, because I often couldn’t load the actual article, but that quote could give me enough context to process the headline and others’ comments.)

    @Deimos is not trying to monetize us, harness our attention to sell it to advertisers, or track our every click so that he can cash in on our habits. This, paradoxically, makes me throw money at him on the regular, and I encourage anyone here who has the means to do the same.

    There are a lot of people whose usernames I recognize and have come to develop a kinship for. We’re small enough that people don’t get drowned out and anyone can make a name for themselves here if they choose to comment frequently. I will occasionally realize I haven’t seen a particular username in a while and check in on their profile to see if they’re still active. Sometimes they’ve left the site and I’m genuinely sad. Sometimes they’re just away/on break, and I get delighted to see them post again (welcome back, @Akir!). I haven’t felt that way about an online community of strangers before.

    There are people on this site with whom I frequently disagree, sometimes quite strongly. This is a good thing for me, even though on other sites it often isn’t. The quality of discussion here is above anything else I’ve seen online, so quite often I’m forced to intellectually confront the difference in our perspectives rather than just discard it. My views on lots of things have shifted over my time here because of users who have made the effort to post challenging ideas in good faith. Some of my favorite users here are the ones with whom I disagree, because they are the ones who help me confront why I believe what I do in the first place and whether some of that needs changing. It often does.

    On a similar note: the small community feel of this place helps smooth over some frictions. If someone posts something I find difficult or challenging, I usually have an accumulated perspective of that individual that better helps me process where they’re coming from. This can lend a depth to perspectives that’s absent in places where there are too many users to adequately track. Furthermore, the idea that we will continue to share the same spaces on this site in the future makes me less likely to respond in a way that would compromise either of our standings in the community.

    If something does start to grind my gears, I just use the Ignore feature. Yes, it lets the discussion persist on the site, but my experience is immeasurably better for not having to see it. Sometimes I’m not in a place to see a contentious thread keep hitting the top of my activity feed, so the Ignore feature helps me take a step back towards the coziness I’ve come to associate with Tildes and that I value the site very much for.

    In my time on the site, I feel like I’m watching a continual group unlearning of bad behaviors — in myself and in others. I think a lot of us burned out on the conflict-first paradigms of communication elsewhere, and when we come here we seek refuge from those but also import some bad habits related to that. We have enough people here committed to quality communication and positive community that this space feels like a way to detox and get rid of the things we have been taught wrong about what online interactions should look like. I’m still undergoing this process — I think we probably all are. @NaraVara talked recently about the bad internet habit of commenting more to the audience than to one’s interlocutor, and that pinged for me bigtime. He helped me realize that’s a bad habit I’ve held on to for years and need to get better about. I think a lot of us are here because we’re interested in being better about those kinds of things, and that’s awesome.

    Really though, despite the length of all I’ve just said, the reality of why I like Tildes is quite simple: I really like y’all! We have a lot of great users here. I wouldn’t take the time and effort to participate on the site if we didn’t.

    I’m on Tildes because I like being here with all of you.

    26 votes
    1. [3]
      skyfaller
      Link Parent
      TL;DR: TLDR (and excessive brevity) reduces the quality of discussion, considered harmful ;-)

      TL;DR: TLDR (and excessive brevity) reduces the quality of discussion, considered harmful ;-)

      9 votes
      1. lou
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I feel that the opposite can, on occasion, be harmful as well, or at least counterproductive. Prolixity is sometimes mistaken for comprehensiveness.

        I feel that the opposite can, on occasion, be harmful as well, or at least counterproductive.

        Prolixity is sometimes mistaken for comprehensiveness.

        2 votes
  2. Adys
    Link
    I absolutely think of Tildes as a community. And currently, on the web, it's the only one I frequent. The rest are just .. weird takes on social networks at best. I think the site has a few things...
    • Exemplary

    I absolutely think of Tildes as a community. And currently, on the web, it's the only one I frequent. The rest are just .. weird takes on social networks at best.

    I think the site has a few things going for it which aggregate to a pretty healthy state:

    • The site itself feels good to use. It looks good and feels good, doesn't get in my way. This is something Reddit has utterly failed at, which makes using that site an exercise in mounting frustration, which makes me dislike going there at all even if it's got good things going for it (which, nowadays, it doesn't).
    • The members are decently diverse of location and opinion. I see a pretty good mix of people that don't always agree with each other but tend to respect each other regardless.
    • The site is small enough that names are recognizable. If I don't recognize a name here, it's probably somebody who doesn't post. I'm reminded of my original WoW server, way back, before cross-realm was a thing.

    The way I see it today, Tildes is an internet neighbourhood. I love it. I've posted here when I was depressed, but I've also posted here to share my happier moments as well. I've grown with the site and it has grown with me.

    Tildes was here to hear about me both getting together and breaking up with my last two SOs. It was there when I took my first step on the ice and watched me progress all the way to starting ice dancing. It's where I first go to share the coolest things I see online, and where I've discovered so many more. It's where I've met new friends who got me through some pretty tough times. And like how the ensemble becomes a character of its own in some TV shows, I've grown to see not just the members of Tildes, but the site itself, as a friend.

    To many more years.

    28 votes
  3. patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    I was a regular Tildes participant for a while before the pandemic, and I'm just dipping my toes into commenting again. Aside from reflexive scepticism about the value and safety of any digitally...
    • Exemplary

    I was a regular Tildes participant for a while before the pandemic, and I'm just dipping my toes into commenting again. Aside from reflexive scepticism about the value and safety of any digitally mediated social interaction, I've taken to carefully budgeting time-looking-at-screen for health (both mental and physical) reasons.

    That being said, I miss a number of the Tilders I regularly interacted with, despite never having met them in person. The depth of the conversations here selects for people who are adept at conveying meaning, personality, and emotional nuance in text with only minimal graphic embellishment.

    I'm enough of an Internet Ancient One that I met my spouse on a BBS. I've seen many fora come and go in popularity - everything from Usenet to IRC to The Well to MySpace to Reddit to G+ to Discord and Telegram groups.

    Tildes is a great salon, in the French Renaissance-era sense. It's a near-private amenity hosted by a benign sovereign who can at least partially finance its operations, without resort to the easier money of ad sponsorship. Tildes is attended by a group of curated, carefully self-policing users who must be at least minimally courteous to each other in order to maintain participation. (A very long time ago, there were were discussions about how to improve forum mechanics based on the most obvious failings of the sites we were all familiar with. For the most part, the site's foundations discourage the kind of participation we've grown to know and loathe elsewhere.)

    At the same time, as /u/kfwyre said, there remain issues with the "discussion" aspects of the site in the response to audience vs. interlocutor. You're not carrying on real-time conversations, just exchanging messages in bottles as and when the participants are available, or publishing broadsides. I personally find this distancing essential, despite the urge to carry on as if replying conversationally. Having a job, spouse, life, etc. offline are all demanding and my attentional energy isn't up to the constant notification cycle anymore. Lacking instant feedback on one's brilliant ripostes may make Tildes too dull for people conditioned by real-time likes/upvoting, but it works for me.

    Also, keeping graphical content and noisy posts to a minimum... I didn't realize how much I needed that until I recently tried a moderated Telegram group ostensibly for foodies globally. By the time it reached 20 or so regular users (2 weeks), the constant stream of 💩-posting, memes, loud audio, and chest-pounding one-upmanship had gotten unbearable. I never felt like I knew anyone in channel (just a couple of people in private chats, and I was still suspicious of them), un-threaded conversations were impossible if you were away for a few hours, and things spun beyond rational understanding way too quickly.

    Tildes does make it possible to see a 'nym's posting history easily. You can observe the trajectory of commentary and understand each user's perspective - their evolution, intellectual interests, rhetorical stances, style, and the personal details they've chosen to share (not in a stalker-y way!). It's much easier to grant trust, "Remember the human", and keep someone accountable the way a friend would, rather than being the harried, anonymous wielder of a ban-hammer.

    13 votes
  4. [4]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    A bunch of people have already mentioned most of the same things I love about this site, and more eloquently than I could have. But one thing I haven't seen anyone mention yet is notifications....

    A bunch of people have already mentioned most of the same things I love about this site, and more eloquently than I could have. But one thing I haven't seen anyone mention yet is notifications.

    Every time I used to get a reply, PM, or modmail notification on Reddit, it would come with a pang of dread due to the frequent hostility, snideness, and even outright hateful abuse being hurled around at everyone there. But I have never once felt that same dread about receiving a notification on Tildes. Sure, there are still arguments, and even heated debates here... But I have never once been made to feel completely miserable and dehumanized due to a reply or PM here, which I can't say the same for about Reddit. In fact, whenever I get a notification here it actually often comes with a sense of excitement instead, because someone here has taken the time to respond to a comment I made, or topic I have posted. Yes, sometimes those replies are disagreeing with what I said or posted about, but at least I can count on those still being respectful.

    And furthermore, the very very few times I have seen a comment here on Tildes that I think would have made another user feel abused or dehumanized, I have Malice labeled it, it promptly got removed, and more often than not the person who made the comment was also then banned. So also unlike at Reddit, I feel like @Deimos genuinely cares about the community here, and truly is dedicated to preventing the toxic behavior, often tolerated on other social media sites, from becoming normalized here.

    That's a large part of why I stick around here, and every time I dip my toes back into Reddit I end up regretting it. E.g. Every submission on transgender issues outside the LGBT spaces on Reddit is a horror show, that ultimately just makes me feel depressed for having witnessed.

    21 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      reddit did the same thing to me too, and I wasn't even a mod! It took me months on Tildes to get rid of that kneejerk negative feeling. I talked about it here about a year after I joined Tildes:...

      Every time I used to get a reply, PM, or modmail notification on Reddit, it would come with a pang of dread due to the frequent hostility, snideness, and even outright hateful abuse being hurled around at everyone there.

      reddit did the same thing to me too, and I wasn't even a mod! It took me months on Tildes to get rid of that kneejerk negative feeling. I talked about it here about a year after I joined Tildes:

      Getting off of social media was an attempt at detoxing, but I didn't realize how deeply it had rooted in me until I started posting here. For my first few months, every time I loaded up Tildes and saw the orange comment notification (similar in location and color to reddit), my immediate unconscious response was fear. I felt a little pang of "uhoh" each time it happened because I had been conditioned to expect the worst.

      I'm so glad I don't feel that way anymore! Like you expressed, it's become a positive for me. In fact, I think part of the reason I make so many ask threads is because I love seeing the little orange notification now.

      13 votes
    2. [2]
      soks_n_sandals
      Link Parent
      I think your last point addresses the reason I use this site. People here are generally on their best behavior. Sometimes there is ignorance, commenters talking over each other, or unintentionally...

      I think your last point addresses the reason I use this site. People here are generally on their best behavior. Sometimes there is ignorance, commenters talking over each other, or unintentionally heated exchanges, but I've never seen this site manifest a cross section of the absolute worst that people have to offer. Other internet spaces are an unfettered view into an endlessly hateful and mean-spirited human reservoir.

      Though, the dynamics do change as more people join. I'm sure I contributed to some dynamic shift when I joined. The site continues to be a space for engaging discourse, and that seems to be a hallmark.

      5 votes
      1. nobody
        Link Parent
        This is what I'm thinking. Isn't every community bound to become another Reddit once it reaches a certain size? Sure, there are mechanisms in place to limit or promote certain behaviors, but I'm...

        Though, the dynamics do change as more people join

        This is what I'm thinking. Isn't every community bound to become another Reddit once it reaches a certain size? Sure, there are mechanisms in place to limit or promote certain behaviors, but I'm not convinced by the enthusiasm in the comments here. Since we're still relatively small, bad behavior or simply low effort content is manageable. Why do you think mods on reddit are forced to impose karma/age requirements? I don't want to sound like a troll, I enjoy being here more than being on Reddit of course; I'm just trying to be more realistic and less disillusioned.

        2 votes
  5. [3]
    MimicSquid
    Link
    I use it as a filtering mechanism to protect me from the worst of social media. I trust that if there's important news I'll hear about it here, and that most of the insignificant "outrage of the...

    I use it as a filtering mechanism to protect me from the worst of social media. I trust that if there's important news I'll hear about it here, and that most of the insignificant "outrage of the day" stuff will get filtered out. I developed really unhealthy media habits in the wake of the 2016 election, part of walking away from that cliff is that Tildes is the only news aggregator that I look at now. It's been very, very good for my mental health.

    17 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This is a great point. The floor for submissions here is higher than other sites which tend to subsist off of short-lived high-arousal content. I get a much better, more thoughtful, and more...

      This is a great point. The floor for submissions here is higher than other sites which tend to subsist off of short-lived high-arousal content. I get a much better, more thoughtful, and more meaningful feed here because of that.

      4 votes
      1. vektor
        Link Parent
        This! No I'm not adding noise or being low-effort, I'm illustrating your point. Seriously though, the cheap noise you get on e.g. reddit gets to me these days. A joke or two, sure. But sometimes....

        This!

        No I'm not adding noise or being low-effort, I'm illustrating your point. Seriously though, the cheap noise you get on e.g. reddit gets to me these days. A joke or two, sure. But sometimes....

        4 votes
  6. bub
    Link
    I should probably start reading the user names attached to comments around here. I'd probably get a better sense of community if I didn't just "see comment, respond comment." As it stands, more...

    I should probably start reading the user names attached to comments around here.

    I'd probably get a better sense of community if I didn't just "see comment, respond comment."

    As it stands, more than getting a sense of community out of Tildes, I get a sense that most of the people here are miraculously sane, which is a really nice change of pace from most of the internet.

    12 votes
  7. cloud_loud
    Link
    I like reading some of the comments from some of the users. Specifically, Naravara, who I agree with on a lot of things. The reason I started using tildes in the first place, though, was because I...

    I like reading some of the comments from some of the users. Specifically, Naravara, who I agree with on a lot of things.

    The reason I started using tildes in the first place, though, was because I started becoming obsessed with the old internet. Old forums and Usenet. Stuff that had been around before I was born. I would read threads on r/theoryofreddit about the history of the internet and how it’s evolved since Reddit began. I started becoming nostalgic for a time I was not alive for. A time when the internet seemed... better. I was already a few months out of my Twitter phase, and I was looking for a place where people could write in cohesive sentences.

    While digging through old posts on r/theoryofreddit I learned about the existence of this site and Hacker News. And I spent quite a bit of time reading old posts and discussions from both. It seemed like the type of thing I was looking for.

    So for me, it’s more of a way to read higher quality comments and articles rather than having any sense of community with any of the people here. No offense to anyone, I just don't ever feel close to people I meet on the internet.

    9 votes
  8. Merry
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm a creature of habit and I started using Tildes towards the beginning of the site as /u/NubWizard and then as /u/Icarus. I retire accounts after awhile for a "fresh start". I mostly lurk but...

    I'm a creature of habit and I started using Tildes towards the beginning of the site as /u/NubWizard and then as /u/Icarus. I retire accounts after awhile for a "fresh start". I mostly lurk but sometimes get the feeling to seek and out and share content. I find this place to be an engaging forum to read educated with well-thought out comments about interesting topics. There are some down-right good people here that I go out of my way to read every time.

    9 votes
  9. lou
    (edited )
    Link
    I think on Tildes there's a higher likelihood of getting smart and/or civil, even warm answers than in other websites. It still has all the problems I find elsewhere, but they're a lot less...

    I think on Tildes there's a higher likelihood of getting smart and/or civil, even warm answers than in other websites.

    It still has all the problems I find elsewhere, but they're a lot less frequent. I'm more likely to post here because of that.

    8 votes
  10. feigneddork
    Link
    I'll be honest, when I first started this account I was desperate to get rid of Reddit, but I find myself these days communicating via Reddit, Twitter, and this. For me, Tildes is just another...

    I'll be honest, when I first started this account I was desperate to get rid of Reddit, but I find myself these days communicating via Reddit, Twitter, and this.

    For me, Tildes is just another platform with its own quirks and rules. It lacks in popularity, but what it lacks in popularity it makes up for pretty detailed discussion instead of memetic/pop-culture based replies (which don't get me wrong, I love them! It's just nice to have yet another place that doesn't default to that)

    8 votes
  11. [2]
    NoblePath
    Link
    For myself, the Internet standard is non-binaries usenet before google bought dejanews. I learned so many interesting things there, and was able to express my ideas, no matter how weird. I got...

    For myself, the Internet standard is non-binaries usenet before google bought dejanews. I learned so many interesting things there, and was able to express my ideas, no matter how weird. I got flamed sure, but at least I got them out. As ithers have shared/implied, it’s about userbase.

    For a long while, reddit was almost that.

    Tildes lacks the diversity of newsgroups, but definitely draws and maintains the userbase. Alas that there are so few olds. This is at least partly (mostly?) due to my inability to grow up. But noone here judges me for that (at least not out loud).

    8 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Fellow "old" here. For me, the most difficult part of being old on Tildes is that feeling you've heard most of the arguments previously, and don't feel like recapitulating them for the new...

      Fellow "old" here. For me, the most difficult part of being old on Tildes is that feeling you've heard most of the arguments previously, and don't feel like recapitulating them for the new generations. That's true just about everywhere.

      8 votes
  12. Flashynuff
    Link
    I think it's a neat little quiet community. It's also got a solid codebase that I've been able to learn a lot from.

    I think it's a neat little quiet community. It's also got a solid codebase that I've been able to learn a lot from.

    8 votes
  13. streblo
    Link
    I think there's two main reasons: Tildes is like a taste of ~2005 internet back before aggregators took over forums. It's a small community where you recognize a lot of the names and over time...

    I think there's two main reasons:

    Tildes is like a taste of ~2005 internet back before aggregators took over forums.

    It's a small community where you recognize a lot of the names and over time come to know a little bit about the people behind the handles. There's occasional drama of course but everyone is quite respectful even in disagreement which is pretty rare these days.

    Tildes also has several high quality commenters who elevate discussion and make me evaluate my own opinions. That really helps drive long term engagement in a world where most people are eager to read content rather than write it.

    8 votes
  14. krg
    Link
    I don’t post too often, but I do regularly poke my head in on the conversations happening here and the level of discussion tends to be pretty damn high and pretty damn civil, so that’s nice....

    I don’t post too often, but I do regularly poke my head in on the conversations happening here and the level of discussion tends to be pretty damn high and pretty damn civil, so that’s nice. Basically, I find Tildes is a good spot to acquire some Food For Thought ®.

    7 votes