Welcome to Mastodon
Forget Twitter, Mastodon has 10x the engagement.
Why I love Mastodon
- I get 10x engagement, from actual humans! (compared to Twitter)
- We own it ourselves; mega-companies can’t trash it.
The Cycle of Lost Human Connection
Every time we lose an online space it makes me so sad. It’s palpable. We’re losing human connection! Some examples:
- Remember when AIM got bought out and Facebook Messenger got popular? We all lost the open-protocol chat options as viable options — Trillian used to connect me to 8 of them!
- Remember when Facebook/Instagram developed “Stories” and everyone left Snapchat?
The newer platforms did also have human connection… but companies have this habit of corrupting them.
Companies take these great things that provide real human connection… and then monetize it! Slowly stripping the human connection away and replacing it with ads and “engagement”.
Some people call this the “corporate web.”
The IndieWeb: More Resilient
The Indieweb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”.
With apps like Mastodon we are protected from corporations. They can’t exploit us for ad revenue and gradually strip us of actual social connection.
It’s not because Mastodon is expensive to run! It’s not expensive! Most Mastodon servers I’ve seen have PLENTY of money from member donations to cover server/maintenance costs.
The hard part has really been getting enough adoption - a critical mass to make it worth using.
Thanks to the recent (and ongoing!) Twitter dumpster fire, now is the time for Mastodon - come join us!
- Mastodon: a social network like Twitter — but open source and not owned/run by a mega-company/sycophant.
- Toot: a tweet, but on Mastodon
- Mastodon server: the website you go to to toot, and where your data is stored (like “gmail.com” vs “hotmail.com” — my server is “social.coop”)
Nerdy terms you don’t really need to know:
- The Fediverse: A “universe” of “federated,” interconnected but independent servers for things like toots (and also other things!).
- ActivityPub: A web protocol (like
https://) that these servers use to talk to each other.
Differences between Twitter and Mastodon
Cons to Twitter
- 🗑️ Twitter’s awful timeline is run by an algorithm. Lately, 1/30 tweets are someone I follow, and 29/30 are garbage. Of the 29, it alternates between bad recommendations and ads.
- 💰 Twitter exists to make profit for shareholders via ads/engagement. Or maybe just for one rich person’s ego? But it definitely does not exist for human connection.
- 🔥 If Twitter becomes a dumpster fire… we’re kinda helpless. Nothing we can do to save Twitter.
Pros to Mastodon
- 🙌🏻 Mastodon’s timeline is full of humans interacting! Not ads and algorithms!
- ♻️ If your Mastodon server becomes a dumpster fire, you can move your account to another Mastodon server.
Why do I have to choose a server?
Yes, on Mastodon you have to CHOOSE a server. A lot of people get frustrated at this point and give up. I did at first, too!
If you compare it to Twitter, it IS more complicated. Twitter is so straightforward: you sign up on Twitter.com and then you’re done!
But if you compare it to email servers then it’s not so bad. I like this comparison better! Here’s how Mastodon servers are similar to email servers:
- Where you log in. You check your messages on that server
- Your username. Your username/email contains the server name
- Messaging to/from other servers. You can message people from other servers, no problem
firstname.lastname@example.org me /
@email@example.com at me
BUT the metaphor does break down… because there are SO many Mastodon servers.
It is so easy to choose an email server. Most people just choose
gmail.com lately anyway. Beyond that, there are so few other options to evaluate - maybe ~5 popular email servers at any given time.
Mastodon has THOUSANDS of servers. Choosing a Mastodon server can be daunting.
Luckily, I have some recommendations for you! 🎉
Casey’s Server Recommendations
I’ve vetted a bunch of servers for you, and I really like these ones:
- A cooperatively-owned one: social.coop (I’m on this one!)
- A civic Tech one: publicinterest.town
- A DC/MD/VA one: dmv.community
- A ruby one: ruby.social
- An open source one: fosstodon.org
- A general tech one: hachyderm.io
Why these? I considered these three factors:
- Admin. Must have admins/moderators that seem organized and reliable.
- Size. Smaller servers usually have better moderation.
- Topics. Choosing one aligned with your interests means you’ll have a better local timeline.
Don’t Worry About The Local Timeline
What is the local timeline?
- Your server has a “local timeline” which is roughly “any post anyone on my server has interacted with.”
- This local timeline is a handy way to see relevant content — especially when you’re getting started.
- You can visit any server’s “local timeline” even if you aren’t a member. For example, check out my server’s local timeline: social.coop. Many Mastodon apps make this even easier.
Your server choice does NOT affect what you see that much. It really doesn’t.
- First of all, I I mostly use the “Home” feed, which is a chronological feed of accounts I follow + their boosted toots.
- Second of all, when I do want to check out some local timelines, I can! I check out other servers’ local timelines about weekly — including social.coop, fosstodon.org, ruby.social, hachyderm.io, etc.
What’s the best app to use?
To get started, try out the standard Mastodon app. It’s good!
Later, once you’re in, then you might like to explore the other options.
I’m using Toot! on iOS, and it’s super cute. My partner Brian is using Fedilab on Android. There are a LOT of other apps in development, which is awesome!
But again - just start with the Mastodon app.
Finding Twitter friends
Two ways to find friends: an app can help, or you can do it manually. Both ways depend on your friends having their mastodon handle (like
@firstname.lastname@example.org) in their Twitter name or profile.
- Apps. There are a bunch of services that help you find your friends like Movetodon — but Twitter likes to break these lol.
- Manually. I did it this way. I went through my followers manually and checked their name/profile for handles. Scrolling through it’s pretty easy to notice things with two at-signs like
Bonus: Running your own server
I don’t really recommend running your own server, at least to start! And probably not ever!
If you do host your own, then you’ll have to do maintenance, updates, etc — you might get distracted from actually enjoying Mastodon.
If I DID need my own for some reason (like on behalf of an organization I’m in, etc) I would probably use a “Mastodon Farm” service like masto.host — you pay for it, and then these take care of updates for you.
To get on Mastodon:
- Sign up to a server (maybe one of my recommended ones)
- Install the standard Mastodon app on your phone.
- Find some friends.