Turning frustrations into creative projects

There is a question I'm often asked when I'm discussing my film / photography / writing projects: "What motivated you to start [insert project name]?” My answer is invariably the same: "I was frustrated about [insert problem] so instead of complaining about it incessantly with friends and family, I decided to turn my frustration into a creative project." This has been my modus operandi my entire adult life. It's been quite cathartic and empowering.

  • my frustration with unattainable beauty ideals targeting women became the documentary The Illusionists
  • my frustration with mass media (circa 2009) fawning over men in positions of power / ignoring women became the blog series No Country for Young Women (with profiles of dozens of interesting women across countries and professions)
  • my frustration with the lack of animated GIFs showing female film directors and cinematographers became the GIPHY channel “This is what a film director looks like”… and now my GIFs are the top results when people look up "film director" "cinematographer" and many other professions on GIPHY (yes I have basically created a gender gap in GIFs of people behind the camera!)

One of the biggest frustrations I am experiencing these days? How a chaotic, malevolent billionaire took ownership of my favorite social network and dismantled it bit by bit. The birthplace of movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo is unrecognizable: it has been razed and repopulated by people (and bots) who actively mock and oppose social justice causes. It no longer feels like a safe place where one can speak up and organize.

Thing is, if 10 years from now I ever had a conversation about all this with my daughter (who's currently 3), I would want to have something empowering to say if she asked me "so mom, what did you do about this?" Because so far, I haven't done anything.

Making my little one proud has been the main impetus behind the start of the newsletter "The Future is Federated" - and my increasing outspokenness about the Fediverse and all the benefits of this galaxy of open, independent platforms.

The Fediverse and Mastodon have so much potential: to revolutionize communication and connections and social movements.

The Fediverse as a Public Utility

I see the Fediverse as the future of the web and Mastodon as the future of text-based social networking: a vital social utility that should be adopted by governments, educational and cultural institutions, non-profits, media organizations… We're not there yet, so where do we start?

We start by getting more people and more institutions on here. For that, I have two initiatives in mind:

  1. identifying important actors (governmental organizations, non-profits, cultural institutions) and reaching out to them, asking them to create accounts on here… or if they already have an account, to make it more visible on their websites
  2. creating a system to facilitate a "network effect”: convincing my friends to invite their friends to join Mastodon and actively post on it… and make it so it can be easily replicated by others

This summer I will focus on point number 1 and I will prepare for point number 2.

Seeds of Federation: a pledge

How do you create a flourishing new environment? You start by planting seeds and tending to them.

I pledge to volunteer at least 15-30 minutes a day to nudge important actors to start posting on the Fediverse, starting with Mastodon.

I will focus on a different organization/entity every week and share my actions here. So if you are feeling inspired by this initiative, you could follow my lead and join in.

First target: The European Commission

Earlier this month, I directed this message to the European Commission’s account on Mastodon:

my (long) toot to the European Commission on Mastodon. Read the original text here: https://mastodon.social/@_elena/112562953024380924
My original toot: https://mastodon.social/@_elena/112562953024380924

I didn’t get a response – despite many boosts and favorites (which should have gotten the attention of the European Commission’s account manager).

Next up: a gentle nudge

I couldn’t find any profiles on Mastodon of people who say they work for the European Commission. So I went to LinkedIn.

  • On LinkedIn, I found the company page for the European Commission and clicked on “People”.
  • The Commission employs over 30,000 people, but looking for “social media” in job descriptions narrowed the search to 3,410 members. There were several cards with photos and detailed job titles.
  • A few clicks later, I found a person whose job title reads “Head of European Commission Social Media Sector”. I then ran a search of her name on Google and found her work email address. I’m not sharing her name or direct link here to safeguard her privacy – but I thought it may be useful to share my methodology in case you want to follow in my footsteps (with other organizations or companies).

Here is the message I’ve drafted for the social media person at the European Commission – I plan to email it later (as soon as I’m done with this blog post):

Hello ____

I noticed you work as the Head of the European Commission’s Social Media Sector. I wonder if you may help me with something.

The website about the European Commission’s digital strategy ("Shaping Europe’s digital future") has social media links for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube… but not Mastodon. This despite the fact that the EC has an active account on there and just set up a new instance, declaring “Our commitment to the fediverse is here to stay.”

Mastodon is free, open source software founded by a developer based in Germany, whereas the social media platforms shown on the European Commission’s website are from American tech giants (plus they are for-profit and ad-driven, unlike Mastodon). I found this a little odd.

I acknowledge you are not in charge of the design of the EC website, so I wonder if you could direct me to the person/department responsible for it, so I could message them directly?

As a European citizen (an Italian living in France) and an enthusiastic user of Mastodon, I’m really grateful for the European Commission’s commitment to the Fediverse. I think it would be fantastic if the EC website reflected this, so that the millions of Europeans who use Mastodon could easily find you and engage with you on there (and people who are not familiar with it could discover Mastodon via your website).

Thank you so much,

Elena Rossini

I’m openly sharing this here so that other Fediverse enthusiasts could hopefully help me with my messaging. After all, English is my second language and I’m definitely lacking in experience when it comes to corporate communications.

Anyhow, this is my goal for the week: getting the attention of the European Commission’s digital operations and hopefully having them make their Mastodon presence more visible on their website. If I don’t hear back from the person I emailed, I will try other people who work there (thank you LinkedIn!)

Next steps

Next week’s focus is a double bill: the Paris 2024 Olympics social media team (because they aren’t on Mastodon but they use every other social media account under the sun) and the Paris startup incubator Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus (same reason).

I’m eager to hear your feedback and advice.

Thanks for being here,


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Last Update: July 11, 2024