“I don’t get Mastodon.”
“It’s just another version of twitter, but run by leftists.”
“I don’t want to have to learn how to build a server just to talk to my friends.”
“The main drawback is that it’s boring! Otherwise it’s a functional twitter clone.”
These are some of the comments I’ve been seeing on twitter since Elon Musk moved into HQ and started farting all over the furniture. The takeover hasn’t been pretty. Layoffs. Offices being shut down, total confusion. Last week we all found out that a certain ex-President is now allowed back on the platform. Long-time twitterians are talking about a mass exodus. It’s no doubt that large numbers of people don’t want to be on the platform anymore. The looming question has been “Where do we go?” The answer that’s been tossed around like a beach ball in a stadium is “Mastodon.”
And as quickly as people jumped on the decentralized social media platform, many have become disillusioned with the experience. It only takes a few minutes to sign up on a server and then find out that you have no idea what the hell you’re doing. The FAQ rundown looks like:
Where are my friends?
Can I DM someone?
Do I have to run a server?
What’s an instance and how do I choose one?
I get it. It can be confusing. It’s like twitter but it’s not like twitter. It’s like reddit, but not really. It’s like an old school Yahoo forum… but also not really. The misunderstandings of what constitutes a decentralized social media platform abound.
There’s also been backlash as some have been locked out of their accounts for violating their instance’s TOS. One person complained that they were kicked off of octodon.social for “being a capitalist.” While they didn’t mention what post caused them to be booted, it’s notable that the description of the instance reads, “queer anarchist communist cyber pirate ship.”
I’m not going to try and convince you to move to Mastodon. In fact, if you already feel strongly that it’s “not like twitter,” then I hope you don’t join an instance at all. Personally, I love the platform and have been on there for a few years. One thing I love about it is that there are no ads or spammy stuff. People are… nice to each other — a strange concept, I know. It feels a bit like twitter in 2007. It’s a bit spare, a little more DIY, a little more Country to twitter’s Rock n’ Roll. I like that. If you don’t like that, then I wouldn’t waste time trying it out.
However, if you’re still considering dipping your toe in the proboscidean waters, I have some advice for you.
- Find an instance that truly suits you. Don’t just jump on mastodon.social because it’s the biggest. That doesn’t really offer any more to the experience than a smaller instance. And please, for the love of George Michael, don’t get on a cyberpunk leftist socialist queer instance if you’re a gun-loving conservative capitalist. That’s like walking into a Hare Krishna meeting and asking, “Where’s the beef?” There’s even a wizard that will help you find one: https://instances.social/
- Don’t start your own Mastodon server. I mean, maybe, one day, if you like it. Sure. But trust me when I say that going through that process will just wear you out and cost you money. Just find a server you connect with.
- Does it feel “boring?” Hmmm. Maybe that’s on you. “Life is what you make it.” — Doc Brown (paraphrased)
- I’m going to say this loud, for the people in the back. You can talk to or follow anyone on any Mastodon instance, not just yours. They’re separate, but yes, you can still talk to your bestie who’s on clocktower.social.
- Try Tumbler instead. It’s like instagram, but it’s also like twitter, sort of, and… never mind. It’s different. But I hear a lot of celebs are there now, so you can get your Linda Carter fix.
That’s it. I hope you figure out a good alternative place to hang out online. Emperor Musk is going to do whatever he wants, regardless of his earlier claims of “free speech.” In the end, it’s about the money.
I’ll still be on twitter for now. I’m not jumping ship just yet. But I’ll also be on Mastodon, Tumblr, and Instagram. Not to mention living in the real world.
If you’re interested in reading more about the culture of Mastodon and how it differs from twitter, this piece is excellent: Twitter alternative: how Mastodon is designed to be “antiviral”