Yup. Elephant. | Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Once upon a time, long, long ago (actually it was last year), I joined Mastodon. This was before Twitter changed management, so my decision to join has nothing to do with that. I just wanted to look for a decentralized social media alternative to the Book of Faces or Twitter. There were others I looked into (ex. Lemmy being one), but they didn’t feel as smooth and robust as Mastodon.

What is it?

Twitter and Facebook have everything (people’s profiles, info, media) stored on their servers, and whenever everyone logs in to check their feed, they log into the same site. With a decentralized (a.k.a federated) social network like Mastodon, everyone can choose which server/site they want to join, but everyone using the Mastodon service can still talk to each other. It’s more like email than Facebook, where everyone can communicate with each other, despite having a different email provider. So usernames are formatted kind of like email addresses as @[email protected]. Ex. mine—@[email protected]

Why is this a good thing?

  • Different servers have different rules. Mastodon.social’s rules for example are found on their about page (no hate speech; anti-LGBTQ, racist, sexist content; no misinformation, no harassing other users, nothing that’s illegal in Germany, since it’s located in Germany). Also some servers are (somehow—haven’t figured this out yet) geared toward people with different hobbies. So there’s a server specifically for journalists.
  • If the server you’re on changes its rules to something you don’t like, you can move to another server and still be able to communicate with other Mastodon users. Also your old profile will have a big link at the top pointing the direction to your new profile.
  • If none of the servers look appealing to you, you can set up your own (if able), and create your own rules, block other servers, etc.

The upsides

  • Higher character limit (at what, 500?)
  • Although not the same as a blue checkmark, you can sort of “verify” your own site by adding it to your profile and linking to your profile with a rel="me" attribute. It’s not saying “I’m an authentic source” but more of “this is the official account of this site”.
  • Can set content warnings for whatever you want on your posts (death, violence, pandemic, etc).

The downsides

So I haven’t used it much yet (admittingly, not a social media person), but here’s my thoughts:

  • I like the decentralized bit, but @[email protected] is just less of a sexy username than @giantpaper
  • Going over the list of servers can be overwhelming for a lot of people. If you can’t decide, just join the mastodon.social one. It’s what I did. ?‍♀️

That’s it (for now). One of these days, I will compile of Mastodon accounts to show that YESSS, people are joining!