Probably you’re hearing about a less toxic social media environment you’d like to or are being encouraged by friends to try, but the idea of restarting in a whole new thing exhausts you. Don’t worry. You can save your spoons and take this in very, very small steps.
The first step is to know that it is your choice and you can do it if and when you want.
If someone you follow is moving to Mastodon, ask them for the URL to see their toots (the mascots are elephants not birds, so toots not tweets). It’ll look something like this: https://mastodon.cloud/@metagrrrl
Knowing that you won’t lose touch with friends who switch to Mastodon can really help a lot with taking this at the pace which is most comfortable for you.
Another step you can take is to watch this couple minute overview, so you’ll know what they’re talking about:
Mastodon runs on many independent servers, called ‘instances’. I find it helpful whenever they say “an instance”, to hear “a community”.
Because each community (instance) sets its own rules, it is possible to find one which matches your values and, most importantly, values you as a member.
Everyone should base their Mastodon account in a community (instance) which will protect its users in the ways which matter most to them.
Finding the right community (instance) seems like a huge task, but it’s not that bad. It’s kind of like choosing your email host; yeah, it’s bit of a pain in the butt to change later, but it’s not the end of the world if you decide to do so.
A great way to start thinking about where you might want to have a Mastodon account is to look at the rules for the communities (instances) where your friends have theirs.
Remember: just like email hosts, you and your friend don’t have to be with the same one to communicate with each other.
Finding the rules for a Mastodon community (instance) is easy because they have a common URL style: just add /about/more to the end of the base URL.
For example, https://mastodon.cloud’s rules are at
You can see some other communities’ rules at
Some place more restrictions on acceptable behavior, some fewer.
Next you might want to explore why this effort could have a payoff for you. Along with the opportunity to be in a less toxic community than Twitter, as far as the rules are concerned, there are some differences in the way things work which help to reduce or eliminate harassment and other negative experiences.
Perhaps the most subtle and important difference is between Twitter’s retweets and Mastodon’s boosts. Boosts don’t include text from the person doing the boosting. There’s no ‘boost with comment’, thus no performative aspect, avoiding “Heed, my followers, how I dunk on this fool!”
That doesn’t prevent someone sharing screenshots or linking, but because Mastodon’s reply functionality only broadcasts to people who happen to follow you both, one person’s massive follower count won’t unbalance the conversation.
I described this difference as subtle and important because when the design doesn’t enable and encourage pile-ons, people behave differently. Some of what makes Twitter so often unpleasant seems to be the default behavior of the tool, not necessarily that of the user.
That’s the subtle stuff, though, and there are big, obvious differences which are under your control in Mastodon, and which allow you to change your experience for the better.
You can adjust how public any individual message is.
A toot can be
• Fully public, appearing to your followers, the public timelines, anyone looking at your profile;
• Unlisted, appearing to your followers and on your profile, but not in the public timelines;
• Private, appearing only to your followers and people mentioned in it;
• direct, appearing only to people mentioned in it.
Also you can “lock” your account overall, requiring your approval for a new follower to be added.
Beyond that, on Mastodon you have much more ability (though less need) to hide things. Since it’s not commercial, you won’t see ads in your timeline. And your timeline is just messages as they come out from the people you follow and only that — no algorithm messing with what you see.
On Mastodon, if strangers are bothering you, you can block notifications from people you don’t follow. You can also block or mute individuals. You can even hide everything from a specific community (instance), so you don’t see them and any of your followers from there are removed.
Text filters are coming, but are perhaps less necessary than on Twitter because most Mastodon communities have a culture of using Content Warnings. And the content warnings actually mean something here, because of the way they are built into how messages are written and read on Mastodon.
As you write a toot, you just click the ‘CW’ at the bottom (next to where you’d add an image or set how public the toot is) and a separate field appears for you to write your warning. When the toot appears in anyone’s timeline, only your warning appears with a “SHOW MORE”/”SHOW LESS” toggle to reveal the rest of your toot.
What is purely delightful is that another part of Mastodon culture is the use of CW for all sorts of things, including jokes with the punchline hidden. 🙂
That’s not even all the hiding controls. You can learn more on this incredibly helpful page: https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2018/07/cage-the-mastodon/
You can try Mastodon without making any commitment to switching over to it. In fact, that’s what I recommend. Find a community with a set of rules that feel good enough for you to hang out at their gathering for a while. Go to the about page of their community (like https://mastodon.cloud/about) & look for a signup form & its big blue button. Create your account and personalize your profile just a little, probably making it match your Twitter account so it’s easy for friends to recognize you.
Then ‘toot’ something like, “Hi, it’s me. You may also know me over on the bird site as [your Twitter name].”
On Twitter, you can tweet something like “I’m playing with Mastodon a little. You can find me at [your new Mastodon page]” or DM that to friends. If you’re making a public announcement, you might want to put your Mastodon page in the bottom of your Twitter bio.
It is absolutely fine to just let that ride for a little bit. People join Mastodon all the time and if you don’t have connections over there at first, you will likely find them joining you over time. So that they know you are hoping to meet with them in Mastodon, you may want to toot a little something every now and then.
You’ll automatically be set up to follow the administrators of your community and some of them are quite fun. (Eugen of mastodon.social, for example, is an avid booster of cat pictures. Though my personal account is in a different community, I follow Eugen for the cheerful kitties.)
To find others to connect to, try searching for the names or usual usernames of people you know from other social media sites, or for hashtags of things you like. You can even save a hashtag as another timeline column in your view of Mastodon. (I have #mastoart there, for example, and so I always have cool art to look at.)
There’s a lot more you can explore—and I’ll link to some things below—but the steps I’ve described are plenty to dip your toe in the water and find out what this whole Mastodon thing is about.
Personally, though it took me a little while to find the spoons to get it set up, I find it so much nicer an experience that I have more spoons using it than I do using Twitter.