(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort. Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)
A lot of people are moving to Mastodon, which means many people have opinions about Mastodon. I wished to share my own here because we’ve got to ask hard questions about our social media use and how it’s consolidated in a few hands. Mastodon promises to be part of the solution.
First, though you probably know this, Mastodon is an open-source Twitter-like system made of multiple private servers. Networked (federated) together by open protocols, you get the whole Twitter micro-blogging experience without central ownership. People and servers can block various instances, which helps to (mostly) cut down on bad actors. Other software and sites – many substitutes for Big Social Media – integrate into this “Fediverse” so it’s well worth exploring.
Me, I created a membership on the big server Mastodon.social, but plan to move to a specialty server at some point. That’s one of the neat things – you can move memberships between servers. I have no problem with Mastodon.social – I just want to find a community to be part of.
MY ADVICE: Just find a reliable server and open something. Move later.
Speaking of support, most Mastodon servers are obviously private and privately funded. Many have patreons, use Ko-fi, etc. for funding. This is great as you (or your server owner) are independent, but it also means that you should be ponying up the money.
MY ADVICE: Join the Mastodon main patreon and fund them, and then fund the server you’re on. Be part of the community.
Because there are many separate servers, Mastodon’s larger federated universe (fediverse) is a collection of connected communities. This makes it more stable as there’s no centralization, but also I’ve found it cultivates communities. Servers usually have a specific purpose to support an interest, community, industry, or geographic region. Communities can self-regulate (or get blocked), people can find specific interests easier, and tighter bonds are created.
MY ADVICE: After you join, start following people and checking out servers to look for interests. Be part of your community.
You have to cultivate your experience on Mastodon – which is good because there’s no algorithm trying to make you angry or get you to buy pants. There’s no trending items being thrown in your face due to computations, and virality only happens due to people promoting stuff. Freed of the mathematics of engagements, you get out of it what you put into it. Follow people, use lists, promote Toots, and employ (and search for hashtags) to get what you want.
MY ADVICE: Really explore the tools Mastodon has to manage your experience and employ them all.
Finally, I found you have to approach Mastodon with asking what you really want out of it* One of the problems with Twitter was people were on Twitter as everyone else was on there. Mastodon, with it’s many communities and people-driven connections, requires you to ask what your purpose is and find the best people, servers, and hashtags to reach it.
MY ADVICE: Ask what you really wanted Twitter for, what you want out of social media, and then approach Mastodon with purpose. You might even find you were on Twitter “just do it” and have to do some deep analysis (and possibly therapy)
Is Mastodon worth it? For me the answer is hell yes! Mastodon forced me to think of my goals, but then I found it was easy to find and build communities as the distractions of Twitter weren’t there. Moderation was better than I expected because I expected none and though there are problems I’m at least seeing real discussions of real solutions people can implement. It’s also nice to be part of something growing.
Plus freed of trending topics and the chaos of Twitter, I honestly feel more relaxed. Like many, I think maybe I was on Twitter to be on Twitter more than I admitted.
See you on Mastodon.