Mastodon is one of many microblogging networks. Its popularity has skyrocketed in the last week as Twitter users leave en masse to avoid the whim of the Chief Twit. This is a very, very brief guide with little explanation and no hand-holding. When you dip your toe into the calm, ad free, waters of Mastodon remember that the communities over there existed before you joined. Take your time, learn and adapt to the new culture, and remember that nothing in life is free.
How do I sign up?
Visit https://joinmastodon.org/ using your device’s web browser and click on create account.
What’s a server?
Before you sign up you need to choose a server. Think of the server like your Twitter home feed, or a group of people with at least one thing in common. You can choose a server based on location or interests, for example. Each server has their own rules, and some will exclude specific servers from your timeline (usually of the NSFW, highly suspect types). Play it safe by joining a server listed on the joinmastodon.org page – all sites listed there are committed to moderation against racism, sexism, and transphobia. Check the server rules by clicking on Learn More.
You can move to a different server later if you need to. Discover more via https://instances.social/ or this openstreet map.
Edit Your Profile
Click on Edit Profile to edit your profile, add in a bio, a pic and some links. Head to Account Settings and Two-factor Auth to set up the super important two-factor authentication.
Also known as “toots”. There’s a character limit of 500, you can add up to 4 photos, and include video by clicking on the paper clip. Adding Alt Text descriptions to images is expected.
You can add a Content Wrapper (CW) to your post to allow your followers to avoid anything NSFW, Love Island spoilers, or upsetting political news – use a descriptive header so people know what they’re missing out on and put the content in the main input box.
Click on the globe to restrict the audience of your post and click on EN to change the language ID of your post. The bar graph will let you add a poll to your post.
Reply, Boost, Favourite, Bookmark and …
These functions are available at the bottom of most posts (providing the author has allowed them). You can reply publicly to the author by clicking on the reply arrow.
Boosts are very similar to re-tweets except there’s no quote facility available. Click on the arrow circle to share someone’s post with your followers.
Favourite, the star, indicates you like the post, of course.
Bookmarks allow you to collect posts to look at later.
The functions available on the three dots menu depends on whose post you’re looking at. If it’s your own you can edit delete, pin and link to your posts. If it’s someone else’s you can send them a direct message, mute them, block them, or report them.
Timeline / Feed
Your Home timeline shows you posts and boosts from people you follow.
Your Local timeline show you posts from other people on your server.
The Federated timeline shows from all the other servers that your server allows you to see.
Find people to follow
Click on Local to browse your server timeline and scroll through messages, click on profiles, and follow those you want to see in your home timeline. You can do the same thing with the Federated feed.
Use the search box to search for hashtags or usernames.
If you’re migrating from Twitter you can find some of your followers using the fedifinder code here https://fedifinder.glitch.me/ by https://vis.social/@luca
You can follow me too @email@example.com.
On Android I’ve found Tusky to be more intuitive than the Mastodon app.
On iOS check out the reviews over at https://transponderings.blog/2022/05/21/eight-mastodon-apps-for-iphone/.
Support and Donate
Many of the servers are managed and paid for by volunteers and they need support to run them. Maybe you could volunteer your time to be a moderator or you could donate a small amount to help with the running costs. The About page of your server will usually let you know how you can help.