How to get over the AAAGH MASTODON OVERLOAD hump and join a saner online community

You may have heard of the disintegration of Twitter, happening in real time, due to it being bought by a billionaire with very little sense and increasingly less money every day thanks to his own stupidity and bad business decisions.
I’ve stopped posting on Twitter as a result. And I’ve moved my daily content to Mastodon. It’s an independent place that’s a federation of independent servers located all over the world. You can find me on Mastodon here: https://artisan.chat/@knittymag
It’s also got a bit of a learning curve, but I’ve been helping people find their way a little easier. If you’d like to try it out, here’s how to get over the AAGH MASTODON OVERWHELM hump:
  • If you’re on desktop, visit https://mastodon.social in your browser.
  • If you’re going to use an app, I suggest Metatext or Toot! for iOS or Tusky for Android. Avoid the Mastodon app…it’s not very fully featured and will be a less-than-enjoyable introduction to your experience. If you haven’t already, sign up for an account at a Mastodon server (aka an Instance). I’m at https://artisan.chat because it’s populated with crafters and artisans (and lots of knitters and crocheters). But whatever server you join, you can follow people on ANY server that post about things you’re interested in. You will not be locked in to the server you choose, but as you spend time on Mastodon, changing it becomes less desirable (you lose access to your old posts). So do browse the available servers/instances before you choose one, and look for ones that are specifically for your geographic location, your main area of interest, a fandom (ie star trek) you adore, etc.
  • Once you choose your server/instance, fill in your profile with as much info as you feel comfortable sharing.
  • Include hashtags in your profile to help others find you.
  • Write a post with the hashtag #introduction and hashtag the post liberally to find like-minded folx. Do not be shy. HASHTAGS ARE YOUR FRIENDS IN MASTODON.
  • Enable the advanced interface if you are on desktop. It gives you multiple vertical columns so you can see local (your server) feed, your notifications (mentions, likes), perhaps a column for a hashtag (ie #knit)
  • Then bookmark your server (I use http://artisan.chat) and when you’re logged in, your chosen columns will come up and you can see what’s new, click the star (aka the heart here), repost stuff you care about, reply, and all the things we do on Twitter (and on FB, to some extent). Remember that clicking the star does not mean you will see more of that user’s content. It just means you liked that post.
  • Because there’s no algorithm that will show you posts, browse the Local (your own server’s stream of posts) and Federated (all posts over the whole of Mastodon’s independent servers) timelines to find new people to follow. Your Home timeline will show the posts of people you’re following. Search hashtags to find more people to follow. Note that searching doesn’t search POSTS, it only searches hashtags. This is different from what you likely expect. So there’s a bit of work when you start using Mastodon to get interesting-to-you content to show up in your feeds.
    It’s not unpleasant work. Each independent server is run by a person or persons who have taken on the responsibility of moderating their server so that trolls are silenced and banned if necessary and the server’s rules are respected. So you will find less garbage, no advertising, and a lot more collaboration, support and interesting stuff in your areas of interest, once you start looking.
  • Do your part and report trolls and such to your server admin. Learn about CW (Content Warnings) and use them when you post political, potentially upsetting stuff (like my posts about the loss in my family last week), etc. Respecting the culture of Mastodon will make your experience more comfortable for everyone, including you.
  • Do your part, and support your server/instance with a financial contribution, if you can. Server/instance admins are just folk who are not only paying for the web hosting, but spending time managing and moderating their server/instance simply for the good of the community. Many instances have set up ko.fi, PayPal or Patreon so that you can do just that. A dollar a month or more, if you can, makes a difference.

Ask questions and I’ll amend this post as required. If you join Mastodon, come follow me if you’d like. I’d love your company.

Amy

(190 Posts)

One thought on “How to get over the AAAGH MASTODON OVERLOAD hump and join a saner online community

  1. Jen

    Really helpful, Amy. At one point my brain just sort of froze trying to wrap my head around getting set up. My only remaining concern is security. Every instance is maintained by an individual, which will be an issue should security issues arise, and being open-source software, I have little doubt they will.

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