In Mastodon lingo, here’s how to leave the birdsite for the fluffy animals federation, without hurting your social karma, while leaving the nazis behind.
If you don’t know the Mastodon, there are articles that will explain you in details what it is about and why it’s better than Twitter or where it comes from and what is the federation. But in a few words, it’s a decentralized social network, driven by a community of free software enthusiasts, that feels very much like twitter, but with added values.
If you are coming from Twitter, these would be some of the reasons to consider switching to Mastodon:
- It feels friendlier, more conversational and fresh. Just like twitter at the beginning.
- It puts users first. Its architecture is completely designed from the ground up to protect against harassment and bullying.
- It’s free from nazis.
- It’s not driven by corporate greed. There is no central authority aggregating your data and selling it to third parties.
- It is not addictive tech. It’s not built with email reminders to connect or suggestions to post and give away personal details about yourself.
- It’s decentralized open source software supported by its community. So it would be very hard for any government or malicious entity to shut it down or censor it completely.
So now that you have an account (follow this guide if you don’t have one yet), here are a few tricks I’ve come across that helped me during the transition.
Find your twitter friends who are already on Mastodon and follow them. Use it to find your friends now, and to find more friends in 3 or 6 months. People join Mastodon all the time. Not every Tweep did the transhumance last April. Some only join today. Find them and make contact on Mastodon.[Edit: 27/04/2022] Unfortunately, this service is not available anymore. I think the Twitter API did not really like this app. You’ll have to ask your friends directly what is their Mastodon account. Pinning a tweet in your profile with your Mastodon address is a good way for your followers to find that information.
- Craft and pin a tweet that announces you’re moving to Mastodon and link to your new profile. Here is mine for example:
Ping me there if you’d like https://t.co/DY36jIsT1I
— Julien Deswaef | @firstname.lastname@example.org (@xuv) April 1, 2017
It’s pinned at the top of my twitter profile so that anyone visiting it can find it.
- Since Twitter has recently allowed a lot more characters in twitter names, you could also add your Mastodon user handle next to it. It helps spread the message, one tweet at a time. (A mastodon user handle starts with @your-username and finishes with @the-instance-where-its-located. This is mine:
@email@example.com@firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s like an email address, but with an @ in front of it. PS: don’t send emails to that address. It will not work.)
- While you’re still on Twitter, why not follow the official @MastodonProject account. It’ll regularly remind you about your decision to move and provide good stuff to retweet to your friends.
On the move
If tweeting from your phone is your thing, Mastodon has you covered in many ways. There is plenty of apps to choose from. And Mastodon itself behaves very well in mobile browsers (no app needed). But this is what I recommend:
- Remove the official Twitter app from your phone. It’s bad anyway. It tracks your location, does not show tweets in a chronological order and tries to figure out everything you are doing with your phone. It also only works with Twitter.
- Install Twidere (for Android, also available on F-Droid) instead. And connect it to both your Mastodon and Twitter accounts. You will then have one unified feed, with both tweets and toots from your friends in reverse chronological order. No tracking, no profiling, no machine engineering of your preferences. And when you want to post a message, you can decide to send it to both platforms or not. Your choice. I personally decided to post solely on Mastodon. Though I do still retweet some stuff and reply to @mentions on Twitter… for now.
Consider Mastodon as a new school you’d be going to or a new city you’d just moved in. You know how it works. There will be things you are familiar with and things you don’t know. There will be new friends to make, but you will probably know a few people there already. But with every move, there will be a little effort needed from your part to make it an enjoyable experience.
Things are a little different on Mastodon than Twitter. But, the rule, I guess, is to be yourself. I believe there is a tone for every social network. Even if probably Mastodon is very similar to Twitter. Try to find out how it’s different. It’s like finding this new café at the corner of the street you just moved in. When is it crowded? What’s the best thing on the menu? Why do people go outside if they they want to take a call?
Here are a few accounts you might find interesting if you like the stuff I like:
- Allison Parrish: @email@example.com
- Brendan Howell: @KnowPresent@mastodon.social
- Darius Kazemi: @firstname.lastname@example.org
- Máirín Duffy: @email@example.com
- Yunohost: @firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course there is many more (1.000.000 more). Hop on the federation feed or local feed of your instance once in a while and you will see a flow of many many posts in different languages (you can filter out the languages you don’t want to read in the settings). Especially do this if you just started, it’ll give you a sense of what’s going on in this space. And basically, it’s something you can only do on Mastodon. Then follow new people. Unfollow, if it’s not as interesting as you thought. No one will be offended. This is new ground. Be curious.
And don’t be silent. It’s a social network. It means there is nothing really interesting there if you don’t bring anything. Social network tools are empty by default. So talk to strangers. It’s a potluck, BYOB party, shared lunch. Everyone is bringing something to the table.
Sharing content from Twitter on Mastodon
You will be tempted to share the good things you read on Twitter to Mastodon. And this is perfectly fine. Though to properly do it, start your copy with “RT @email@example.com” to credit the original author (just like in the old days of Twitter by the way).
You might also want to use the feature called “Content Warning” (CW) if what you copy might feel offensive to some readers.
People on Mastodon tend to respect their audience more than on Twitter. Some like to put violence, political views and anything related to Twitter (aka. the birdsite) behind a Content Warning.
Sharing content from Mastodon to Twitter
Depending on what you’d like to achieve with this transition, you might want to keep your twitter followers in sync with what you are doing on the Mastodon. I personally don’t do this (if people want the good bits of me, they are welcome to follow me on Mastodon). But you could find interest in using the Mastodon Twitter Poster to manage this automatically for you.
This service [by @renatolond] allows you to connect a Mastodon account and a Twitter account and enable cross-posting between them.
Mastodon Twitter Poster seems really well thought in terms of cross-posting features, respect of privacy levels and overall understanding of both worlds. Though, this is just from reading the doc. I’m curious to have feedback from people who have used it.
And by the way, when you tweet a link to a toot, this is what it looks like:
— Julien Deswaef | @firstname.lastname@example.org (@xuv) June 22, 2017
Yes, Twitter embeds toots perfectly.
If you have the feeling Twitter is getting worst every day, but that the way the medium used to work was fun and promising. If you believe there is a more respectful way to micro-blog, using a platform driven by community decisions, with respect in mind and keeping a safe distance from centralized silos. Now is the time to embark on a new journey.
Hopefully, I’ve demonstrated in this article that the tool set is available to ease that transition. Whether your goal is to completely remove yourself from Twitter at some point or to maintain a presence on both sides until Twitter burns down to ashes is up to you.
But the future is bright and seeing the pace at which Mastodon is growing, we have probably not measured yet completely the impact this will have on the future of social media (start reading about PeerTube and Activity Pub, if you want to grasp what I’m talking about).
Let me know if anything in this article helped you or feels incorrect and don’t hesitate to come say ‘hi’.