Mastodon 101 (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Tusk)

Kyle Ford
3 min readDec 4, 2022

Now that Elon has turned Twitter into fascist Disneyland, you’ve likely been reading more and more about Mastodon as an alternative. While it’s been around for quite a while (some co-workers and I lightly poked at it years ago), all of the recent shenanigans have pushed it back into the spotlight in a major way.

Unlike other emerging new options like Post and Hive Social ( yikes and double yikes) which are centralized services prone to the exact same “could eventually be hijacked by a red-pilled billionaire” issue, Mastodon is part of the “ Fediverse “ and is decentralized, which means that it’s made up of separate, independently-run servers that can all talk to each other through a common language.

This decentralization has given Mastodon a reputation for being a bit hard to set up, and while the overall user experience certainly has some room to improve, if you’ve ever signed up for a web-based email account, then sent someone a message, I have complete faith that you’ve got this.

Here’s how to get started…

Step 1: Choose a Server

Since Mastodon is decentralized, you’ll first choose a server to join, from which you can then communicate with users on the same or other servers. This great PC Magazine article sums it up nicely:

“The best analogy is to think of Mastodon like email. You can create an account on any email service you like-Gmail, Hotmail, Proton Mail, etc.-and still communicate seamlessly with people with accounts on other email services.”

What’s great is that you can easily migrate to another server later, so don’t worry too much about which one you choose to start.

A few popular servers include mastodon.social (currently closed for new signups), mstdn.social and mastodon.cloud. Here’s a larger list to explore as well. Pick your poison.

Step 2: Get a Good Client App

While you can definitely just use your chosen server’s website to interact with your account, having a great mobile app makes the experience even better. I can’t speak much to Android apps (though here are some recommendations I’ve come across), but on iOS the official app is fine, however I’m a big fan of both…

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