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Leaving Twitter for Mastodon

Leaving Twitter for Mastodon

November 15, 2022

Some of you might have heard through the news, but Twitter is in a bad place. Some of you might have noticed that I have switched out the Twitter link in my header to a Mastodon link. I want to take some time to write my feelings about the changes at Twitter, and why I think everyone should exit the platform. I also want to write about how I have been getting along on Mastodon and some helpful hints I have come across along the way.

Leaving Twitter

With Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, it quickly became a place I no longer want to be a part of. Not only is he making a mockery of the software engineers building the platform, but he is also reversing a lot of protections we came to know and love. The day I logged out of Twitter was when I noticed two right-wing conspiracy theories trending. That was enough for me.

We cannot allow for the internet to regress; it is already a terrible place. But there was a shimmer of hope that it was getting better. Twitter made a lot of important improvements to make the internet a safer place. And apparently, this made Musk mad. Mad enough to spend more than $44 billion to purchase Twitter outright.

I hate it. Musk was the only person I ever muted on Twitter. And now he runs it, bringing his vitral to the masses. I hate it.

What is Mastodon

First, let’s talk about what Mastodon is. I do not think Mastodon is Twitter 2.0. Mastodon is a “social network not for sale.” The premise of this sentence is that Mastodon thinks you should be in control of your social timeline. Not companies. I like this, and so far in my short time on Mastodon I think it is true. Mastodon feels like Twitter before every brand in the world needed a Twitter. It feels like “the good ol’ days.”

Not being Twitter 2.0 has some drawbacks as well. The sign-up process has been confusing at best. How the decentralized nature of Mastodon works, it all can be confusing. And with the new influx of users, we have to wait and see how moderation will pan out.

There are some big claims coming from the open-source software that runs Mastodon. They say that the decentralized nature of the platform leads to tighter moderation. They say it frees your data and releases you from advertiser’s algorithms. Of course, this is all to be seen as the popularity of Mastodon blows up. And some are already saying Mastodon is not the answer to leaving Twitter.

I think a lot of the drawbacks can be mitigated. It is not a perfect replacement, but it is a lot better than where we are seeing Twitter heading! And this is why I am writing this post. Let me help you get up and running with Mastodon!

Getting on Mastodon is Hard

I have to say, the most frustrating thing about Mastodon is Mastodon itself. The decentralized nature leads to a lot of confusion. Telling my mother to sign up for Twitter was easy. Go to Twitter, create a user and tweet. It’s not that easy for Mastodon. And it is probably going to be its downfall.

First, let me say. It really does not matter what server you first choose to create an account with. You will still be able to communicate with everyone within the Mastodon network. There are some things selecting a server gets you.

  1. It gets you a specific moderation team.
  2. It gets you a currated federation timeline that’s specific to servers.
  3. It gets you a cool domain for your username. (I am @joshfinnie@fosstodon.org.)

But it also has some drawbacks.

  1. Some servers are more popular than others and can feel sluggish.
  2. Some servers might not have the latest and greatest version available.
  3. The moderation could be lax and you get some toots in your server timeline that are not relevant to you.

These are things you are going to have to weigh. But in the end, it really does not matter. There are tools available to help you find your following. And due to the decentralized nature of Mastodon, you can always follow who you want no matter the server.

I just wish I could tell my mother to go “here” to sign up for Mastodon. Could there be a central, suggested server for people to feel comfortable with? It will be interesting to see if there is something that becomes a “Twitter Replacement” within the ecosystem of Mastodon.

There is a lot of documentation that will help you get signed up with Mastodon. I do not want to get into an in-depth walkthrough here. But know they exist and seek them out if you want to join Mastodon. Which I think you 100% should!

Running your Own Instance

One of the interesting side-effects of Mastodon being open source is that you can run your own instance. Very much like above where I spoke about joining your first instance, running your own can be an easy solution. Digital Ocean even has a one-button deploy of Mastodon in their catalog! Of course, like with any other project you have, running it yourself means you are on the hook for maintenance and upkeep. Is this something that interests you? If so, take a look at running your own instance. You can even invite close friends to sign up using your instance to give a more welcoming onboarding process.

There are some neat things that are baked in to running your own Mastodon instance. The whole federation model allows you to choose what servers you want to include in your “Federation Timeline.” This not only will reduce FOMO for not being part of the hip new server, but it will also allow you to feel part of the fray without the drawbacks of a popular server.

I, myself, have not tried this yet. So your miles may vary. But I am excited by the fact that this is a possibility. And will definitely be looking into running my own instance sooner than later.

Conclusion

Please do not take this post as a written-in-stone inditement of Mastodon. I am really just learning it myself. However, if this post was not helpful enough, there were some resources that got me through:

And of course, if you want to chat find me on Mastodon here!

Happy tooting!

Article's hero photo by Gauravdeep Singh Bansal on Unsplash.