Ever since Elon took over Twitter and made and endless series of absolutely boneheaded decisions, people have been scattering to find a new home. Mastodon has seen a huge influx of users that has taxed servers and caused some hiccups as admins upgraded capacities and such. Recently I’ve seen many people trying Hive, but I can’t say I’m a fan of it, while I am a big fan of Mastodon, so I’m going to focus on that.
Firstly, I am a Mastodon newb, not an expert, but I wanted to share my experience and what I do know to help encourage people to come over there because I want all my friends at the same party! There’s plenty of more knowledgeable sources on the web for information about Mastodon and the Fediverse such as Fedi.tips.
Mastodon can seem intimidating at first, I know. There is no main central website, and that’s the point. No corporate behemoth in charge of everyone’s fate pumping algorithms to get you hooked and feed you what it thinks you want while looking for every way to make a profit. There are thousands of “instances” you can join each run by its own admin and varying in size, scope, and rules. I chose to go ahead and join the largest, and I believe original instance, mastodon.social. Now no matter what instance you join, you can follow anyone from any instance, so you don’t have to worry about being on the same instance as your friends. I initially signed up on mastodon.art years ago but then when I went back recently after the big Twitter kerfuffle, I had forgotten where I signed up and so made my new account on mastodon.social. You can “migrate” to other instance later (only once every 30 days I believe) which will allow you to bring your following/followers with you but NOT your posts, which is important to note but also probably not as important as you think.
You might want to join an instance with like-minded people, or an instance that has rules of conduct you agree with such as actively prohibiting racism, sexism, and bigotry in general (which seems to be most of them) Instances can also actively block other instances that they know violate such things or spread hate and misinformation or any other criteria that might make an instance something you don’t want to associate with. Individual users can also block users or instances. Also of note is that because of the huge influx from Twitter lately, some instances are not taking new signups right now as they try keep performance scaling with the growing userbase.
I felt a bit at sea in my first few days using Mastodon but quickly found my own way there along with nothing but helpful people. In my fist couple of days on Mastodon I had more nice, enjoyable interactions with total strangers than I think I’ve had in my 15 years on Twitter. There is the “Home” tab which is posts from people you follow in chronological order (again no algorithms pushing specific content at you). The “Explore” tab which is posts that are popular at the moment, the “Local” tab which is chronological posts from people on your instance, and the “Federated” tab which is chronological posts from all the instances on the “Fediverse” that your instance knows about. How does one instance “know about” another? That’s definitely above my level of knowledge but there’s plenty of resources out there like the aforementioned fedi.tips.
I personally find myself spending most of my time on Explore, Local, and Federated discovering, meeting, and interacting with new people. Miraculously, I have yet to encounter a single jerk. Now this is the internet, so I’m sure they’re out there but Mastodon’s record with me so far is amazing. It just feels warm welcoming, relaxed, fun, and a great place. I only wish more of my friends were there too!
With people seeking Twitter alternatives, it unfortunately feels like everyone is scattering and splintering. It very much reminds me of when I used to play an MMORPG called “City Of Heroes.” For me that was my “Golden Age” of MMOs in that I was part of a really wonderful “Supergroup” (same as a “clan” or “guild”) of amazing people. After that game started to fade (or people’s interest in it) everyone scattered to totally different games and even you went to the same game as some other friends, you would often have friends on different servers and couldn’t all play together. It was never the same after that. I know I’ll never convince all my wonderful internet friends to come to same place but I wanted to at least do my part in trying to sing the praises of the place where I’ve landed and am really enjoying. I want to do anything I can to help other understand it or give it a try. You can find me here!