So you joined Mastodon, Now What?
As Twitter continues to burst into flames and Elon Musk runs around Twitter HQ not knowing what to do while the building falls down around his head, you’ve decided to see what the deal is with this whole “Mastodon” thingy you’ve been hearing about.
Mastodon is a social network that’s similar to Twitter, but it’s not a Twitter replacement. Things work a little differently so it will take a little bit of time to get used to it.
Table of Contents
I am so lost…
The first thing I want you to do is breathe. It’s different, but that’s OK. You didn’t know how to use Twitter either when you first started so be patient with yourself. You’ll get it!
Are they really called “toots”?
Yes they are, but you can just call them “posts”.
I have a Mastodon account but I can’t log into other Mastodon servers!
Your account exists on a single instance. You don’t need an account on other instances to be able to follow or interact with people on those instances. Your account gives you access to the federated network that your instance is a part of.
But it keeps asking me to create an account or log in when I try and follow people on other servers
Search for their name from the search bar in your instance and follow them from there. Because you’re already logged in to your instance you won’t have to perform any additional login steps.
Why do I have multiple timelines, and why is my Home timeline so empty?
Unlike Twitter, there’s no algorithm (for the most part) driving content on Mastodon. This allows for more organic interactions with other users, similar to how Twitter was in the early days, but it also means that you have to put in more work upfront to follow people you’re interested in.
In order to see content in your Home feed, you need to start following people. When the people you follow post, reply to, or “boost” content, it will show up in your Home timeline.
Posts from users on the same instance as you will show up in your “Local Timeline”.
Posts from people on other instances that are followed by people on your local instance will show up on the Federated Timeline.
The visibility “flow”
The post below from @Geekymary@mastodon.social does a great job of illustrating the “flow” of posts.
Ok, so how do I find people that I want to follow?
The best thing to do is search for hashtags on topics that you’re interested in and read the posts by people on those hashtags. From there you can visit their profile and see if they’re someone you want to follow.
If you’re interested in Star Trek, search for #StarTrek : )
#FediTips is a good hashtag to follow for useful information on using Mastodon/the Fediverse.
Why is search “broken” when I search for text?
Text search doesn’t work on Mastodon, as it’s generally used by people to easily find posts by users that they want to harass. You can search for users (even users on other instances), and hashtags, but not text.
Boosts and Favourites
If you see a post that you like, you can favourite it, or boost it.
Favourite (Star Icon): I acknowledge your post and wanted to let you know that I think it’s cool!
Boost/Reblog (Double Arrow icon): I think your post is cool and I want to let other people know that I think it’s cool!
Remember there’s no algorithm, so starring something isn’t enough to put it on your followers timeline. You have to actively do that by “boosting” the post if you want your followers to be able to see it.
Dealing With Trolls
For the most part I’ve found Mastodon to be a pretty pleasant place, however pleasant places attract trolls that like to harass users and make things generally unpleasant.
Thankfully, there are a number of end-user moderation tools that you have access too.
Similar to Twitter, this will mute the account and you will no longer see that user’s posts on your timelines.
Pretty self-explanatory, this will block the user’s account from being able to interact with you at all.
This will report the user’s account to your instances Admin. You also have the option of sending the report to the other user’s instance Admin if they are on a different instance than you.
This has the benefit of bringing it to the attention of your instance’s Administrator, who has some additional powers. For instance, they can block the specific user “instance-wide”, so that user will no longer be able to interact with any users on your instance.
If the other user’s instance is also full of bad actors (nazis, fascists, etc.), your instance Admin can “defederate” the other instance from yours. At that point, no one on the other instance can interact with your instance, which includes not even being able to see posts from users on your instance! Pretty cool!
Your Own Scorched Earth Option
As an end-user, you also have a pretty cool option to deal with a group of people you don’t like.
You can do the scorched earth option and block the entire domain the other user is posting from. At that point any user on the other domain will no longer be able to interact with you.
Is there anything else I should know?
Be patient. There are a large number of users coming over to Mastodon right now from Twitter so things are going to be slow and stop working at times. Instances are run by individuals, often paying for hosting out of their own pocket or through donations, so please be patient with them.
If you’re able to, donate to your server Admin to help with hosting costs. Yes Mastodon is free, but it costs money to run the servers that power the network. Help them out if you can.
Begin to learn the general “etiquette” around posting on Mastodon. Twitter encourages discourse and anger, Mastodon encourages conversation. Consider learning how to learn the built-in tools like “Content Warnings” and “Post Visibility” settings to keep the place friendly for those around you.
If you have any questions/comments please leave them below.
Thanks so much for reading ^‿^
If this tutorial helped you out please consider buying me a pizza slice!