Mastodon is Easy and Fun Except when it isn't
November 13, 2023 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Erin Kissane has some criticisms of Mastodon's culture and technology Since Elon Musk's enshittification of twitter, many new social platforms have sprung up. Mastodon, Bluesky, Cohost, Threads; to name a few. Even Metafilter got in on it by spinning up a MeFi Mastodon instance. Do you agree with the author's assessment of the state of Mastodon? Have you joined one of the new social media sites? How do your experiences stack up next to the author's?
posted by signsofrain (109 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I should clarify - the author's conclusions are based on an informal survey conducted of Bluesky users - not solely their own experiences.
posted by signsofrain at 7:58 AM on November 13, 2023

I predict Mastodon users might have better things to say about Mastodon.
posted by mazola at 8:09 AM on November 13, 2023 [27 favorites]

After years of trying Mastodon clicked with me. But my tribe is tech people in the US (with a queer-friendly requirement), which is Mastodon's #1 community. I think the criticisms in this post are accurate, although none are novel.

The "got yelled at, felt bad" is a sort of in-group hazing where people are very eager to enforce their perceived Mastodon cultural norms. It's not all bad and will seem familiar to Mefites. Other aspects of it are worse. I've blocked a couple of people after they berated me too much, problem solved.

The "couldn't find stuff", "too confusing", and "high-stakes decisions" are partly technical limitations. The lack of discoverability is a huge problem in the Fediverse, and the confusing is bad product design. And "own your experience" requires more technical investment than most users want to make. I'm hopeful these will keep improving.

I've never experienced the "anti-fun" as a problem. Maybe who I follow? It's true Bluesky has a more casual / silly vibe, personally I don't like that. Maybe I'm too serious and boring.

Bonus suggestion: try the phanpy Mastodon client. It's a web client and works with your existing server, also installable as a PWA on mobile and desktop. It is very, very well made.
posted by Nelson at 8:11 AM on November 13, 2023 [12 favorites]

I confess I have so far only skimmed.

It's worth noting, though, that although the author acknowledges in conclusion that a substantial fraction of Mastodon users would like it to stay small, the write-up otherwise assumes the "How can we help Mastodon by making it grow?" posture. I'm not particularly rooting for either side, but there's a tension there.

To what extent is our dissatisfaction with Facebook, Twitter et al an inevitable result of their scale? Musk wouldn't have tried to buy Mastodon, even if that were a coherent concept.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:17 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I agree with this for the most part. I've always felt the siloed nature of the Fediverse is its biggest roadblock for non-technical users. It's not hard to join, in the sense that all you need is a username and password, but finding a community (instance) can be a challenge. If Grandma joins a knitting instance (assuming there is one), great. But what if she wants to see content from another knitting instance?

As bad as monolithic entities like Bluesky and Threads are, you only have to join once.
posted by tommasz at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2023 [6 favorites]

I’ve bounced off mastodon three times, and my experience it’s very anti fun and very anti discovery.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2023 [24 favorites]

There can be a fair number of cranky gatekeepers scolding you because you aren't Mastodoning the "right" way.

Block them and move on.

Time on Twitter taught me that, generally, you don't owe anyone anything on social media other than to be (mostly) civil. You certainly don't owe anyone your time and attention. You don't need to put up with the self-righteous hall monitors. Don't be a jerk and you'll be fine.

I've seen people complain about the lack of CW for B&W pictures, for long technical posts, for mentions of Twitter, and so. There seems to be some number of people who think you're supposed to curate your own posts to suit their feed requirements. Block them and move on.

I've found Bluesky to be so bland and superficial that I just stopped checking it. Over on Mastodon I've built up a good number of people to follow that I learn new things and have interesting discussions.

When I run into people who seems to enjoy nit-picking or act willfully obtuse, I block them. No hesitation.

The fact is that there can be no universal Mastodon culture or norms beyond some broad civility. People need to curate their own feeds, be active in finding their tribe. Maybe that's too much work for people who want an algorithm to decide this for them. Maybe that mindset is something Bluesky attracts.
posted by Ayn Marx at 8:21 AM on November 13, 2023 [22 favorites]

I’ve been on Mastodon for maybe a couple years. I’m setup up in just one server (Praise “Bob”) and it’s been relatively easy and just fine. But the whole experience has been basically figure it out as best as you can all by yourself. I have never been a social media user except here at Metafilter, which I don’t think of as social media, and now Mastodon, which also lacks a lot of the social media stuff like targeted ads, algorithms delivering you stuff they think you might like, and rampant info collection. Having signed up there in a small group of people all linked together by being all ordained ministers in a church that exists outside of just the internet, there is some built-in community right from the start. As to extending beyond that group, the World feed of stuff followed by or boosted by people in the group, which does extend subject matter quite a bit, has provided enough of an extension for me. Basically, it’s been good for me.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:21 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

I predict Mastodon users might have better things to say about Mastodon.

A reasonable prediction, but survivorship bias makes me doubt whether it's a useful one for questions about Fediverse adoption.
posted by zamboni at 8:22 AM on November 13, 2023 [16 favorites]

I wonder if there's a difference in acceptance of Mastodon between people who mostly want to be entertained (e.g. scroll a lot / parasocial relationships) or who want to interact (engage in two-way social interaction) ... and whether people know what kind of mixture of the two they want.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2023 [9 favorites]

Erin Kissane's been doing excellent writing (still working through their series on Meta/Facebook's involvement in the Rohingya genocide), so I'd suggest to read this as less 'sour grapes' (they're very active on Mastodon) and more 'for a space that talks about itself being so open & welcoming & easy to use, how does that stack up for people who bounce off?'.

Which, mapping the article to my experiences, they track. I like Mastodon better than most of its alternatives; but there's also a lot of bumps in there & a lot of them aren't helped by what seems to manifest as a "if you say something else is/could be better, you're sabotaging the project" type response.
posted by CrystalDave at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2023 [13 favorites]

A reasonable prediction, but survivorship bias makes me doubt whether it's a useful one for questions about Fediverse adoption.

I think it's ok that the Fediverse isn't for everyone.
posted by mazola at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2023 [7 favorites]

I've always felt the siloed nature of the Fediverse is its biggest roadblock for non-technical users. It's not hard to join, in the sense that all you need is a username and password, but finding a community (instance) can be a challenge. If Grandma joins a knitting instance (assuming there is one), great. But what if she wants to see content from another knitting instance?

Barring cross-instance blocks, users on one knitting instance can happily follow and see content from users on a different knitting instance. The challenge is discovery - unless our new user has some way of learning that users on the other instance exist, they won't be able to follow them.
posted by zamboni at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I found these stats for Mastodon usage very interesting. The key thing is monthly active users jumped from 0.5M in October 2022 to 2.3M in December to 1.6M now. The product got a lot of new people as Twitter melted down (and a second time when Musk attacked the ADL). And they seem to be staying!

Except not really. New people are joining every month. But enough folks are leaving that after a couple of big injections of new people it loses a lot of those people. Overall this looks like a community with a significant amount of turnover but also enough stickiness to have retained a fair number of the new waves.
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

I vastly prefer Bluesky -- I like Mastodon too, but Bluesky feels more familiar to me, and a lot of the folks I used to follow on Twitter are active there, so that's where I spend my time.
posted by maryellenreads at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2023 [10 favorites]

I predict Mastodon users might have better things to say about Mastodon.

But if you're trying to find the pain points of your service, you need to listen to the people who bounced off your service - which is the point of this exercise.

It's worth noting, though, that although the author acknowledges in conclusion that a substantial fraction of Mastodon users would like it to stay small, the write-up otherwise assumes the "How can we help Mastodon by making it grow?" posture. I'm not particularly rooting for either side, but there's a tension there.

The reality is that a social media platform that isn't growing is one that's dying. Now, there's a lot to be said about managing growth in a healthy manner, but at the end of the day, growth is necessary as a healthy community is one that has influx.

Block them and move on.

I think it's ok that the Fediverse isn't for everyone.

Neither of these are an answer to abuse and harmful cultural norms, and need to stop being treated as such. Again, healthy communities need influx to survive, and as such things that prevent influx need to be looked at and evaluated.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2023 [23 favorites]

I have come to enjoy Mastodon, but I'm mostly not a prolific poster and just follow selected people.

One common thread to people's objections about Mastodon which I didn't see addressed in this article:

Certain use cases for Twitter depend HEAVILY on "the algorithm" providing an endless stream of "content related to my interests" that was not specifically asked for by following content creators. Lots of political and activist Twitter works this way.

Mastodon has NO "algorithm". If your use case depends on seeing related content that you haven't specifically followed for, you will be disappointed. This is often what people are talking about when they complain about "discoverability".

The two ways I am aware of to do something similar in Mastodon are

* following hashtags, which is brittle and depends on people strictly following hashtagging conventions, as well as being subject to the weird vagaries of federation where you might not see stuff for days or ever (I still don't understand why this happens sometimes)
* joining a server that centers on "my interests" and browsing the local feed, which can be cool except that this really contributes to the feeling of being siloed, since not everyone who shares your interests is on the same server, and also this isn't really enforced so you will always end up with some undesirable content on your local server.
posted by bgribble at 8:31 AM on November 13, 2023 [15 favorites]

I was a heavy Twitter user from 2010-2016 (mostly during the years when I was in a city where English was not the first language and I was super lonely), then petered off after the US election (I did that here too), and really never came back to it. But I also figured out during the peak pandemic closures that I didn't want to be so online like I used to be. I didn't want randos talking to me about, well, anything. When Musk bought it, I slowly wound down my Twitter account, closing it fully.

BlueSky for me is a fun thing to do, even if it isn't busy like Twitter was. I follow some MeFites, I definitely follow all my old school Barbelith folks (we always find each other no matter the medium and I LOVE that) who migrated there, and anyone else I follow is organic. "Oh, I like the cut of their jib when they post. Gonna follow." I think Mastodon is more for people who are Extremely Online in their own niche ways, and I have bounced off of it twice. In fact, my husband and fellow MeFite stated why even he, a tech-savvy guy, bounced off it and I agree. What I would like is that Mastodon users respect that BlueSky is being used and not everyone has the bandwidth to be on it. I am glad people have found something that they love, but preaching and scolding really irritates me. (You know who you are here.)

What I love so far about BlueSky is that there are so many wonderfully cool queer artists I see on there, a not insignificant amount of furry art, it veers between jokey and serious, and despite not having the option to go private (my preferred way to engage is from a locked account), I have yet to be accosted by fucking randos with bullshit. It feels pretty welcoming and I like it. But then I don't need to use social media for news or my job, so I can keep a healthy distance from it. I was unable to do that with Twitter for so long.
posted by Kitteh at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2023 [8 favorites]

As bad as monolithic entities like Bluesky and Threads are, you only have to join once.

I spent some time trying to pick a server, saw no really obvious way to decide, and just picked the largest one.

Since I can find people and topics across instances I don't think picking a server is all that crucial for most people. At worst it might end up being about the same as joining a single-instance social media platform

An exception might be for people in assorted marginalized groups, who may already know of an instance that would best suit them.
posted by Ayn Marx at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

Mastodon has NO "algorithm"

That's not entirely true. Servers have a "trending posts" feed, here's the big one. But that's not the default view for logged in users. I don't think Mastodon does the Twitter/Facebook thing where your own personal feed can be curated into an algorithmic timeline unique to you.

BTW, I've found Feditrends a useful third party site for suggesting links of interest to the fediverse today.
posted by Nelson at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2023 [5 favorites]

For myself I have two Mastodon accounts I use daily.

One of them my personal one, where I only follow people I care about interacting with (I don't like parasocial one-way relationships), which is about 120 people, maybe a few dozen of which post regularly. I'm followed by almost 400 on that account, which whatever. I'll respond if people engage politely. This is where I post cat pictures, rants, jokes, etc.

The other is my art account, where I follow again, about 200 people, but they're artists whose work I admire, and I rarely engage with others on this account except to compliment folks or respond to people commenting on my own art. I post my art about twice a day, and I'm followed by about 2200 people, which increases by about 2-3 per day on average. With my posts I am providing the "content" side of the parasocial relationship, so people who want to scroll can get something from me.

I post the same artistic content on tumblr (plotterprints@) and bluesky ( for marketing purposes, in general I do not otherwise engage with those sites.

I find this works quite well, and my personal account is the only personal social media presence I have. I wouldn't mine if more people I knew were on Mastodon to have more two-way social interaction with, but I've given up on soliciting folks to come over.

Most people aren't as principled as me (tbh) about not using toxic media sites, so my RL friends and family are mostly dead to me, trapped in a neofascist hellscape of their own creation, on facebook or x or insta or whatever. I guess I'll die internet-alone and proud that I disabled my accounts years ago and have no one to talk to. hamburger
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:38 AM on November 13, 2023 [9 favorites]

I predict Mastodon users might have better things to say about Mastodon.

Well, Mastodon user here, but when Kissane says "the most common—but usually not the only—response [...] had to do with feeling unwelcome, being scolded, and getting lectured" she is, and they are, not wrong at all.

During the first few major Twitter exoduses there was a shit-ton of gatekeeping, a lot of it explicitly anti-black. Like, people building bots that would automatically show up to scold you for mastodoning wrong. It's only in the last six months or so that the tide has turned and "fuck the Fediverse Homeowners Association people, just block them and get on with your life" position has started to stem that tide, but it was and remains a real part of the Fedi first-contact experience.

The idea that responsibility for curating your own experience falls solely to the individual user sounds empowering until you realize that for new and inexperience users it amounts to a hazing exercise.
posted by mhoye at 8:38 AM on November 13, 2023 [26 favorites]

My own experience of these criticisms as someone who now spends most of their time on Mastodon is that they're largely true. However for me personally none of them matter much. Following someone on another instance could certainly involve less friction. I would see improving that as a win for the network, however I don't personally mind having to do some minor typing to follow someone. One place I disagree with the folks who answered is that Mastodon should have an algorithm or recommendation engine. We've seen with other social networks how this results in balkanization, radicalization, bad actors gaming the algorithm for artificial boosting, etc. I actually think it's a good thing that finding your people requires a bit of effort. You need to actually know what you personally want, not just have Mr. Beast spoon-fed to you.

As for the "someone was mean to me when I didn't add alt text to a photo" stuff. I mean - you can decide how you want to post, and others can decide if they're okay with how you post. Personally, before Mastodon I wasn't in the habit of adding alt text to photo posts, but I am now, and I think that's good. It's made me more aware of folks with accessibility issues, and that has affected my thinking in a positive way. I'm now a bit more cognizant of those issues in my day job and other places. Are some people dicks about it? Sure! As Ayn Marx says, block them. That said, in my experience, most instances spell out their cultural norms when you join, so a lot of this is a matter of finding where your style of posting fits in. This again requires knowing yourself and doing your research, something which a lot of folks seem allergic to these days, but I digress.
posted by signsofrain at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

I am on both Mastodon and Bluesky, and they feel very different to me. To me Bluesky is very much the Twitter replacement, and Mastodon is something else entirely. Bluesky gives me a feed of very active commentators, mostly journalists and authors, that I can check as a form of checking the news really. I have no desire to post on Bluesky myself.

My experience of Mastodon, as a relatively recent joiner, has been optimised by joining a Welsh server, which means my local feed actually contains a good proportion of people physically local to me, posting about stuff physically local to me, and has even been a way to discover people I know as they turn up there. I think choosing a server is much more important than Mastodon guidance makes it out to be.

I actively enjoy writing alt text so I like that expectation on Mastodon. Mastodon filters work well for me. I haven't been yelled at and would probably just block anyone who did and move on. The one thing I find disappointing is that on Mastodon following hashtags, at least for the hashtags I am interested in, turns up more anti posts than positive posts. It would be nice if a culture developed to say don't post #farming to bash farmers, use #antifarming or something like that, for example.
posted by Rhedyn at 8:40 AM on November 13, 2023 [8 favorites]

I am enjoying Bluesky, but I have curated my feed by actively recruiting people who I wanted to see on there. This took a bit of effort in terms of finding invites and then getting them to the people I was interested in.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:42 AM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

When I stopped using Twitter, I decided to restart my RSS feeds, join MetaFilter, and join Mastodon. All of which feel very web-90's in the best way to me. I like the slower pace, that there's always the end of the road in terms of scrolling, etc. They all feel like the quieter roads away from the social media super highway.

Mastodon I've found the most useful thing has been to follow hashtags. That's let me find users who share similar interests to me, as well as block those who I just don't want to hear from. I'm also on Bluesky and Threads. But they don't get as much use from me, and I don't find them as useful right now, but I do follow specific people on those who aren't on Mastodon.

I wouldn't say there's any one magically awesome social media community... if such a thing exists. They all have amazing and crummy people on them. Like anywhere. The whole "what is better" conversation is kind of boring. Though I do get that the point is finding and fixing flaws, not just tearing down.

For me the more interesting thing is that there isn't one microblogging site to rule them all like Twitter arguably was. It's very fragmented and each service kind of has a thing I like about it. So while Mastodon is the one I click on the most right now, I'm not necessarily loyal to the platform itself. I'll be interested to see what happens when Bluesky finally federates properly. I'm not as knowledgeable as I'd like to be about the fediverse and how it works, but I am interested in seeing how the decentralized model works for how I'd like to use social meda.
posted by eekernohan at 8:42 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

One unique thing on Mastodon about the scolding; the local server feed. Most of the criticism I've gotten (and we're talking maybe 4 times in a year) has been from people who don't follow me but happened to see me on my server's local feed. That's a thing that doesn't happen elsewhere. On Twitter you might see a post from someone you don't follow but either they're a famous celebrity or an obvious Nazi. That's a different dynamic than someone looking at all posts on the same affinity group server. (I'm on, a medium-large instance of 5000 or so people.)
posted by Nelson at 8:46 AM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

*mutters something about aer0h, the bad place, and*
posted by egypturnash at 8:52 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

I have a Mastodon account (on, same username if anybody wants to follow me) but I use it really sporadically. I get excited to post about something and post about it all over the place, and then I forget to even look at Mastodon for months. This was also true of Twitter for me, except that I also had business accounts so I was forced to use it for work (I have a different job now so that is no longer true).

For me, the lack of an algorithm has made it less addictive and therefore healthier, and I am glad that the default attitude of Mastodon is not that it needs to figure out how to get me addicted, the way that the default attitude for algorithmic social media see me not participating as A Problem. And like, I get it, but also I am weak-willed so I have avoided Bluesky and other new alternatives that appear pretty popular because I worry that I already use social media more than is good for my mental health.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

I don't understand Mastodon the same way I didn't understand Twitter.
posted by JanetLand at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2023 [6 favorites]

I haven't been active on Mastodon in quite some time, after being VERY active for quite a while when it was newish.

Many of the issues highlighted in the FPP reflect my experience, as well. For me, they were mostly things I could deal with and the main reasons I am no longer active have more to do with a general withdrawing from social media (and, to some extent, the "emptiness" problem -- at times, Mastodon was just too damn quiet).

The scolding and meanness was certainly very real and the unspoken rules about CW were often quite absurd. You have to CW meat, because it might offend vegans. Actually, you have to CW all food pictures, because it might trigger someone who has a history of eating disorders or other issues related to food. Politics? Well, yes, this is an explicitly political server but please CW all political posts.

It was exhausting even as someone who was willing to learn and accept these norms, even if I didn't always agree with them.
posted by asnider at 8:58 AM on November 13, 2023 [5 favorites]

I much prefer my little Mastodon experience to BlueSky, but I'm not going to pretend it's without its problems. The anti-blackness that underpins at least some of the gatekeeping (as mentioned by mhoye and egypturnash) is legitimately real. The lack of algorithm didn't bother me; it reminded me of Ye Olden Days of social media where you had to seek out people and topics instead of letting it come to you. It takes a little more time to curate your feed that way but I find it rewarding and more human-scaled.

I think my relatively gentle onboarding to the fediverse was probably because I didn't start on or one of the bigger servers. Unfortunately, that had its downside too as my very tiny instance went down for an entire week with no notice or communication when admin was unavailable and the people left in charge (?) didn't renew the domain. Being able to move instances only works if the one you're moving from is online. (It's back up now but I had already assumed the worst and moved to another tiny server but at least one where I know the admin.)
posted by misskaz at 8:58 AM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also, I don't know if it's gotten easier, but cross-instance following was sometimes a challenge. Actually connecting was (usually) easy if I saw a post from the person, but if I knew someone had an account I often couldn't find them in the search even if I knew their account name (but not their specific instance).
posted by asnider at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2023

Didn’t people get scolded on Twitter? My impression from outside was that Twitter invented new kinds of dragging, shaming and pile-ons.

I don’t know why people who know otherwise refer to being "on Mastodon" as though that were one thing/place when so much of the confusion comes directly from it *not* being one place. Simplifications for beginners should get dropped when they confuse the beginners extra, yes?

This was a great but also frightening bit of Erin’s essay:
If I had to pick a way forward, I’d probably define a target like, “precisely calibrated and thoughtfully defanged implementations of double-edged affordances, grounded in user research and discussions with specialists in disinformation, extremist organizing, professional-grade abuse, emerging international norms in trust & safety, and algorithimic toxicity.”

If that sounds like the opposite of fun DIY goofing around on the cozy internet, it is.
posted by clew at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I like Mastodon, I like Bluesky. Neither has as much "there" there to me as heyday Twitter did but that's probably just as well. I'm on a GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives and Museums) instance and it suits me well and I actually dip in to the local feed from time to time. I follow a lot of people on the MeFi instance. Kissane's article rang true to me generally speaking. My instance doesn't have a lot of "hall monitor" types and I'm already pretty on board with CWs and very on board with alt text (and try to be a friendly encourager for other people to add it -- maybe *I* am the hall monitor!). I started on a different instance way back when and moving over to my current instance was challenging. I am a very "read the manual" person so I was lucky in that I found an early Mastodon manual that was helpful.

I think for people more used to social media being really simple, Mastodon is not that (Bluesky is, moreso, and while I find both platforms fun, there's more grabassery on Bluesky). There's a lot of progressive disclosure, things you'll only find if you go looking. It's SUCH a small team, I can only imagine how challenging that has been for them. They made some early choices (no search being one of them, no quote-tooting being another) which I think split the community somewhat. I feel lucky in that I wasn't really looking for a Twitter replacement and the GLAM community is really decently chill and friendly and good at admining our instance.
posted by jessamyn at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I looked at joining Mastodon ages before I did. But several people told me "if you join the wrong instance then things will be horrible for you and you don't get a do-over." The issue of choosing an instance sounded so high-stakes that it took me years to sign up.

My feed on good days is 60% doom scrolling and on bad days it's 95%. I would like to bring in more happy stuff but I am struggling to find it, and following people who are not on your server is a giant PITA. It is such a PITA on mobile that I just don't have the time to do it (it literally takes me 3-4 minutes to go through the process). Since I view Mastodon mostly on mobile, it's a real road block when it comes to making my feed something I want to read. Which results in me looking at Tumblr instead, which maxes out at about 50% doom scroll on the worst days.
posted by rednikki at 9:35 AM on November 13, 2023

I'm on using this username.

I'm absolutely loving mastodon. It reminds me of the web how it used to be, when I could have meaningful and fun conversations online, ask questions, get help, see cute animal pictures etc.

Another good thing about mastodon is that it's not quite so dominated by Americans, there are lots of people from so many other countries. It's great.

The importance of your instance is a bit more subtle than I realised at first. You can follow hashtags and groups to find people to follow from other instances, but your own instances "culture" will influence the experience because your posts are more visible to people on your own instance.

For example, I hardly ever experience people responding to my posts with whataboutism or bad faith responses, and I think that's largely because of being a pretty good match for me.
posted by Zumbador at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2023 [13 favorites]

I first signed up for a Mastodon instance in 2017 after seeing another post here but didn't use it much. I'm still on the same instance, which has less than 15,000 total users and 2,000 or fewer active users. I don't interact much with the local timeline, and while I think I'm a good fit, there's a small worry at the back of my mind that I'll someday violate some community norm.

With Twitter's downfall, I've moved most of my social media activity to Mastodon. However, that activity is limited. As an inveterate lurker, most of my Twitter usage was passive, being pointed to new ideas and voices. And the range of voices on Mastodon feels narrower to me, especially those from the Black Twitter community. But I'm slowly building out a wide-ranging follow list using hashtags and groups. I'm also posting a little more than the almost nothing I did on Twitter.

The brusque approach by some on Mastodon to enforcing cultural norms is a turn-off. At the same time, I continue to marvel at and enjoy just how widespread and second-nature use of content warnings are.

Right now, I just can't bring myself to commit to another large corporate offering, though that might change if I were to need to do networking or marketing in such spaces.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

The reality is that a social media platform that isn't growing is one that's dying. Now, there's a lot to be said about managing growth in a healthy manner, but at the end of the day, growth is necessary as a healthy community is one that has influx.

this sounds oddly like a resolutely capitalist POV (growth-growth-growth-must-always-be-growing), which I'm pretty sure is far from the intention. More to the point, I think it misses the value of resilience. A resilient system being one that isn't always growing, but instead expands and contracts in response to a complexity of factors. Sometimes it flourishes. Sometimes it hibernates. Most important, it survives. It weathers storms. And it gets stronger the more it weathers.

I hope that Metafilter shall prove to be a resilient system. I think it may well be managing to pull that trick off. As for Mastodon, I don't know it well enough to really have an opinion yet. But again, I don't necessarily see a lack of steady growth as bug.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2023 [15 favorites]

Whee! Today's the one year anniversary of my setting up my own account on! It's been a fairly chill place, I think?

Here's my current starting advice from the Admin account:
Hey all! If you're new here, some suggestions:
* check out the Local Timeline, for posts from other Mefites.
* check out Trending Posts - on the web interface, under Explore.
* has interesting information and useful advice.
I use a bookmarklet - Instance Changer - for quickly viewing remote posts or people on my home instance.

Ah! Note, I'm on, and can invite mefites there. I hadn't realized existed. I guess it came before by a few months and didn't open to anyone other than frimble?

(I'm ok with people using Bluesky, too.)
posted by Pronoiac at 10:01 AM on November 13, 2023 [9 favorites]

You have to CW meat, because it might offend vegans. Actually, you have to CW all food picture

You don't though. I don't. I've never once been scolded for making an un-warned post about food on Mastodon. If someone did choose to give me a hard time about that, I'd block them and do us both the favor of never having to interact again. If I had to do this often I'd be frustrated, but it's not come up once.

The thing about Mastodon is it's a bunch of communities and each one has its own standards. My server has a very thoughtful set of policies including where content warnings are required or suggested. (Photos of food are suggested to have a CW.) I generally follow them. Mostly I just try not to be a jerk and it seems OK.

The other thing about Mastodon is the communities sometimes enforce their policies against each other, including sometimes defederating. egypturnash mentioned The Bad Place controversy above, that's been a mess, including affecting my instance. Here's my admins' take on that. Conflicts happen but so far haven't been a big problem to the network as a whole.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on November 13, 2023 [5 favorites]

I was never big on Twitter, and I probably would not have bothered with Mastodon if there hadn't been the instance, so thank you VERY much, pronoiac.

I don't post much, so haven't really run into the gatekeeing and "you're doing it WRONG!" stuff, but can easily see where that feeling comes from. Every platform has people who want things to work "A certain way" (including, and perhaps especially, MetaFilter), so it's surprising that people would think that's somehow unique to Mastodon. I have truly enjoyed getting to know a few other MeFites in a different and more personal context than MetaFilter really has. I completely agree about the over-earnestness about the platform as a whole, but to me that feels like a welcome break from the all-snark-all-the-time nature of so much of the Internet.
posted by briank at 10:08 AM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

Once, in my youth, went to a Korean restaurant and ordered bibimpap. When it arrived at the table, I just started digging in. A member of the staff rushed over to the table to inform me I was doing it wrong. Mastodon can be like that.

I use lists to tune my follows. If there’s friction, I can just de-list someone. I don’t even have to unfollow. If it gets annoying, I can unfollow, or ignore boosts (for some boost-happy people). Mastodon has a bunch of different tools you can use as well. Someone starts live tooting a conference: mute them for 3 days.

Building your strategy out of these primitives, though, is part of the learning curve that some people find daunting about the platform.

I do find the finger wagging amusing. “Don’t bring $THING into my mentions.” Well, all right, I can agree to your terms if you can agree to mine (hint: you can’t, and the very suggestion is the most offensive thing I could ever say to you). And by amusing, I mean demoralizing.

I have even seen posts by very prominent folks [whom I will not name] with prolegomenary finger-wagging: here is how people who don’t wish to be blocked will be interacting with this toot. Which is off putting.
posted by jimfl at 10:08 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I read and appreciated Erin Kissane's essay when it came out a little while ago. JWZ wrote a blog post that makes a good adjunct. It focuses more on the technical aspects of Mastodon that create certain social outcomes.

With any social network, there's a catch-22 for newcomers. It's boring until you find other people to talk to, so you stop using it. Most social networks solve this by hoovering up your contact list to help you find people. Mastodon doesn't do that. As a result of a basic design decision, it's going to appeal more to privacy-oriented people (who understand and accept this tradeoff), often meaning more technically adept people.
posted by adamrice at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2023 [6 favorites]

Mastodon has been great for me. I am mostly there for boardgame related stuff and a few relatively niche tech topics. On my feeds I get real people chatting about stuff I am interested in with no corporate BS pushed into my face.

As far as I am concerned Bluesky is still vapor until the main instance actually starts to federate. Maybe I will take another look when it actually works but no rush, I am very happy with Mastodon overall.
posted by donio at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
In tonight's performance, the part of the Lord will be played by Elon Musk.
posted by MrVisible at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

My experience of Mastodon has been that it’s a lot less sticky than Twitter and that this is a good thing for my mental health but maybe not the success of the platform (if I can call it that). That divergence is interesting to me, and a little sobering.

I decided to experiment with having separate personal and professional spaces there. The only complaint I have is that my field AFAICT mostly did not leave Twitter and so the professional space is not what I’d like it to be. It’s possible the field did eventually leave and went to Bluesky, but precisely because it’s like Twitter I’m not actually sure I want to be there.
posted by eirias at 10:20 AM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

Bonus suggestion: try the phanpy Mastodon client. It's a web client and works with your existing server, also installable as a PWA on mobile and desktop. It is very, very well made.
Woah. I don't like everything about phanpy, but the "Boost Carousal" addresses one of my main complaints about relatively low traffic feeds on Mastodon (and BlueSky for that matter) where one of the people you follow goes on a "retweet" binge and it takes over your feed with a solid block weird stuff that take forever to scroll past. At least on Mastodon you can turn off boosts from specific users if it happens a lot, but the caroling them all into a bar is a really nice alternative
posted by 3j0hn at 10:24 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

Yeah I'm liking the boost carousel a lot, and I say this as someone who has zealously blocked boosts and retweets for 6+ years now.
posted by Nelson at 10:25 AM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

You don't though. I don't. I've never once been scolded for making an un-warned post about food on Mastodon.

That's great and I hope that is the new norm (though I see you still note that CW food pictures is still recommended), but it was very much the cultural norm during my time in the Fediverse. Maybe I was just part of the wrong communities?

I actually didn't even mind using CW for food pictures, despite finding it a little silly and unnecessary. It was just one prominent example of a strong culture of gatekeeping that I found -- and eventually became exhausted by -- when I was active. It became tiring to worry about what seemingly innocuous toot would bring out the gatekeepers (who, to be fair, were usually relatively polite to me because they were often people with whom I'd previously had positive interactions), so I posted less and less. Eventually, I lost interest and, because I was withdrawing from the more mainstream social sites already, dropping Mastodon as well wasn't a big step.
posted by asnider at 10:26 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

Since Kissane made this post in July, Mastodon v4.2 came out, with some niceties:
* when you're on a remote instance, and you want to interact with a post or member, there's a much easier flow now, with a "what's your home server?" pop up.
* there's full text search, not just hashtags.
Note, is on Hometown, a fork that lags behind, so we don't have those yet. We can make local-only posts, though.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:28 AM on November 13, 2023 [8 favorites]

The thing about CW for food and similar is that surely it's better to tag than CW, and let people filter or follow depending on what they do and don't want to see? I prefer to CW things that I would be disturbed if people were trying to actively follow, like animal injury, and tag for things like food. I personally filter block mentions of veganism and George Monbiot, but I don't expect I'd get very far demanding that people CW for them!
posted by Rhedyn at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

This is an interesting discussion because there seems to be, uh, nonzero overlap between things that can be frustrating about Mastodon and things that can be frustrating about Metafilter.
posted by atoxyl at 10:39 AM on November 13, 2023 [15 favorites]

Though I think “complicated community expectations” are inherently more complicated on Mastodon because it’s multiple communities that are supposed to interoperate.
posted by atoxyl at 10:41 AM on November 13, 2023 [7 favorites]

I really like Mastodon and don't find it too complicated. If people push back on how you use it, tell them to eff off or block them. It's not rocket surgery.
posted by mattgriffin at 10:55 AM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

I recommend Elk.Zone as a pretty good Mastodon front-end that makes it easier to parse and use.
posted by d_hill at 11:13 AM on November 13, 2023

So - I signed-up sometime last fall, but never really used Mastodon, until I signed-up again in the spring ( - and haven't looked back.

Never been scolded, nor told I have been using it wrong. Have yet to post anything where someone said I needed a CW. Everyone has been really welcoming - even the one weird stalkerish guy with an incredibly niche fetish, but once I clearly told him I wasn't interested, that was the end of that.

If setting "alt-text" for images/videos is a problem, I have news for you - both BlueSky and Threads also encourage doing that.

Signed-up for Threads about a month after it went live and then BlueSky in August.

Of the 3, Mastodon has the most interesting, quirky people, followed by next by BlueSky. Threads is a wasteland of nothingness - I post things, get no "likes", no additional adds/follows, etc. Threads seems like the place celebrities and corporate influencers go.

To find content on any of the 3, searching for #hashtags is a must - next, I follow people who post using those tags, and eventually, I get a good list of interesting people - it's working well for me.
posted by rozcakj at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I couldn't get anything enjoyable out of Mastodon, I am still waiting for an invite to Bluesky, and while some of my fave follows have drifted into Threads, particularly some of the authors I follow, the baseball folks are all still stuck on Musk's train wreck.

I used to doom-scroll Twitter every night in 2016-2020. It wasn't healthy but the SFF authors, baseball folks, and libs lifting the torch in the darkness kept me from falling into the abyss. I have no idea what I do if we have another four dark years again.
posted by Ber at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2023

Ber, check your memail - sent you a bsky invite.
posted by cmyk at 11:47 AM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

Re: "...I am still waiting for an invite to Bluesky..."

For the Bluesky curious, let me resurface the Bluesky Invite Swap Thread from September in Metatalk. The intro at the top links to a self-serve Google spreadsheet with invite codes; use a code, mark it in the spreadsheet as used. As I type this, there look to be about 20 unused codes.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 11:47 AM on November 13, 2023 [10 favorites]

I started using Mastodon when it came out and bounced off of it several times over the years. I kept running into problems: one server's admin/allies kept scolding or warning me without much explanation; hard to find folks or topics; not getting responses to my responses, or to my posts.

Last year I pinged a bunch of Mastodon users in my field, and a few actually helped out. Found a better server and have had a few quiet conversations.

That's about where I start with it now. It's like Bluesky or Threads, a place with a few connections. If I want bigger conversations and more interesting discussion, I turn to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
posted by doctornemo at 11:59 AM on November 13, 2023

I tend to find my engagement with new socials takes me a few months to sort of get a feel for why I want to use it and then I clear out my follow list, follow things that fit that mold and start again. The problem for me with Mastodon is that with the servers being kind of topic specific, it feels like I have to figure out why I want to use it first, and I can't be arsed to do that, so I'm just not on Mastodon.

So far, I'm finding Threads kind of a pain, because it keeps showing me people that I follow on Instagram but I don't *read* Instagram and I am profoundly uninterested in listening to the artists I follow on Instagram whine about how hard it is to get people to follow them on Threads which is all they seem to do on Threads. I just want to see the art.

Bluesky is mostly just Mefites at this point because this is where I got my invite from.

Does anyone know if Romancelandia twitter migrated somewhere specific?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:24 PM on November 13, 2023

Does anyone know if Romancelandia twitter migrated somewhere specific?

I don't follow Romancelandia in general, but I'm following Courtney Milan on Bluesky so presume that's a place to start?
posted by Rhedyn at 12:28 PM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

During the first few major Twitter exoduses there was a shit-ton of gatekeeping, a lot of it explicitly anti-black.

How so?
posted by Selena777 at 12:53 PM on November 13, 2023

I am now feeling guilty that I have been basically off most social media while waiting for surgery and outcomes (lab results expected this week or maybe next). It's not hard to use but it's just too much when you really need to focus.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 12:55 PM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

gentlyepigrams, having no social media is a perfectly cromulent way of being.
posted by signsofrain at 12:59 PM on November 13, 2023 [10 favorites]

I originally joined Mastodon when it started in 2017 and immediately forgot about it and never looked at it again until I re-joined last October. I moved my instance to soon after. Now I have another Mastodon account at from my Medium membership, so I guess I should claim my MeFi account.

BTW, I have two Bluesky invites if anyone wants one. I've been more active there than on Mastodon.
posted by mike3k at 1:08 PM on November 13, 2023

Everything said about the fediverse is true, yet I stay on my instance for two things: first, that it’s local to my country and society with all the good and bad that goes along with that.

Second, that the lack of discoverability effectively stops the habit, endemic on Twitter and becoming more common on Bluesky, of terrible people performing to be today’s main character, with crowds piling to say ‘get a load of this fucken guy’.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:19 PM on November 13, 2023 [7 favorites]

I made a few forays into looking at joining Mastodon. But I never did. Because Mastodon has that open source project feeling, the sense that it was made by super techy people for super techy people. You have to really want to join to put up with all the learning you have to do before you can even get to the initial sign-up. It feels very much like it's gatekept, and given that a social media platform lives and dies based on it's user base, everything comes across to me as not worth the trouble.

Sure, I work in tech, I can leap the hurdles of confusing configurations and obtuse instructions if I need to. But many of the people I enjoyed connecting with on Twitter won't.

And my gawd, the lack of guidance for signing up. For example, the complete lack of context for how important (or unimportant) choosing the instance is, and they make you do it right off the bat. Heck, when I was browsing whichever Mastodon website I was looking at for how to sign up, it suggested like eight instances for me. Half weren't even in English, and the others were so interest specific and clearly not for me. Everything about it says "go away".
posted by evilangela at 1:49 PM on November 13, 2023 [10 favorites]

I'm quite happy on Mastodon as a place to hang out and talk science nerd stuff and Atlanta politics. I miss a few folks I used to follow, but I was never particularly into Big Spectacle Character of the Day Twitter or Arguing With Strangers Twitter, so I think Mastodon just fits what I'm interested in using it for.

I joined the server in part because I did not want to join a server that required CW for bugs because I post a lot of bugs and like looking at other people's bugs.

I have been interested in working against ablism in science for a while, so being expected to include alt-text has been good for me to walk the walk more.

I've had a couple of posts get a lot of boosts, and that's been fun and led to some new followers who also like beavers and bugs and don't want to get COVID. It really is a great place for finding your niche.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:03 PM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

During the first few major Twitter exoduses there was a shit-ton of gatekeeping, a lot of it explicitly anti-black.

How so?

I'm not the person you asked, but I definitely remember a lot of black users being yelled at for not put content warnings on posts about their experiences as black people -- and particular black women -- because they were "too political" or because they generally made people uncomfortable having to read about incidents of racism and trauma without being able to see a CW and ignore them.

Being constantly told to put their everyday, lived experiences behind content warnings to avoid offending other, non-black people's sensibilities certainly came across as anti-black, regardless of what the intent may have been.

(Note: I'm not black, so take my comment with a grain of salt, but I very much remember seeing this play out at the time and reading black users express that they felt what I described above.)
posted by asnider at 2:11 PM on November 13, 2023 [13 favorites]

It took me a few tries to really get into Mastodon, but it finally clicked and it's far my favorite of all the "Twitter-likes". Unfortunately I couldn't get a single one of my friends to make the switch, and all their complaints are understandable.

That said, I get a lot more engagement on Mastodon than anywhere else. Generally no one's playing the numbers game; followers are people who are actually interested in what you're posting. What a concept.
posted by xerimorph at 2:31 PM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

I have both Mastodon (the instance) and Bluesky (only had the latter for a couple of weeks) and I have discovered that I'm basically too tired to use either to try to rebuild the social platforms I built years and years ago.

In recent years, I largely only used Twitter to post my theatre articles, and now I'm just...doing that on Mastodon and/or Bluesky to my like four followers because I can't be arsed to even try to find people (forgive me, want to participate, but when I think about building up a following again, I feel like it might as well be Is there a term for that bone-deep existential exhaustion I get when I look at a new social media entity? eNervation?

I get my engagement kicks from Tumblr, where I have a ton of followers who don't know my real name; I chat with people in real time on Discord, and anything people I know in real life need to know, I'll put on Facebook (for the time being). If those go down, maybe I'll finally be free.
posted by ilana at 2:47 PM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

You know what bounces me off Mastodon every time it comes up? Shit like this:

This again requires knowing yourself and doing your research, something which a lot of folks seem allergic to these days, but I digress.

The attitude that "oh, if you don't like this thing it's probably just because you're stupid and un-self-aware and allergic to knowledge" is 100000% an indication that wherever that person is, is not a place I'm going to want to spend any time. And those folks probably don't want me there either, so it is all working as intended!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:06 PM on November 13, 2023 [20 favorites]

Newish to Mastodon, but not to Twitter. Never did anything with my Twitter ID though, except to follow some famous folks, most who've stopped updating there. Uninterested in BlueSky because one new thing at a time, please.

Trying to get my instance of Mastodon to work, but it's slow-going. Can't really say I've mastered how to reply to a post yet, at least in a way others can see. Nor have I hit on the easy way to find those famous folks again (except for George Takai, who'll follow me to the edge of the galaxy). I don't even understand what's meant by boosting, yet. One thing I just discovered, however, is selecting that 'Federated' choice in the menu triggers a veritable river of fast-flowing content of all types, almost too fast to read - it's the most interesting thing I've stumbled upon online in a while.
posted by Rash at 3:22 PM on November 13, 2023

I like Mastodon (joined when Musk bought Twitter) and haven’t experienced the lecturing. It also wasn’t hard to join. It’s pretty sweet and kind (not just because is a nice place). I also belong to BlueSky which because of needing invites had a sort of joking ingroup vibe that is dissipating a bit, and Threads which keeps intruding its algorithm-driven “For You” feed and is weird in its Instagram base; getting more porn bots lately. Many of the people I follow are on all three platforms.

On the whole I like Mastodon the best.
posted by Peach at 4:23 PM on November 13, 2023

I honestly just find Mastodon incomprehensible. But I'm glad that the people who like it have it, and I think it's very unlikely that some goober like Elon Musk will buy it. It's just too hard to understand.

For me, social media is kinda over. I find Bluesky boring beyond belief.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:54 PM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

I've got a very newbie perspective on Mastodon. I haven't made my first post. I've been thinking about timorously asking on ask.metafilter how to courteously post to the Mastodon art world, because it seems like a type of social situation that I sometimes navigate awkwardly, but I've been doing neat things with watercolors and inks that I think I'd like to share and it's a little intimidating.

But for me, from a lurker's point of view, Mastodon is heaven. I mean, I just logged on and found a disturbing but thought provoking Simpsons parody, a cartoon that made me giggle, and updates from the BBC, local independent newspaper The Tucson Sentinel, George Takei and Hackaday. If I run out of local feed I can switch over to the federated, which is like a firehose of stuff I may or may not be interested in, but that is fascinating in aggregate. It's not perfect, but it's a more substantial infobuzz than Twitter was even in its heyday, at least for me.

So, thanks to everyone who's working to make that possible. I'm a big fan.
posted by MrVisible at 5:02 PM on November 13, 2023 [7 favorites]

I think that social media is ultimately going to wind up being a fad, and by that I’m thinking more stuff like Facebook/Twitter/Instagram that’s more about “communicating primarily with your friends and family but open to everyone to potentially read. (Things like YouTube and TikTok, which are much more about a broadcast/entertainment mindset, are different where most people aren’t posting their own videos; also, it’s video, which is very different than text/photo stuff.)

But I’m on now (thanks Pronoiac!) and I think I’m fan of it. I’ve shouted a few things into the void, and started following folks I used to follow on Twitter. In general it seems way more chill than the old days of the hellsite, which is welcome. I basically need something to distract myself from time to time, and at least Mastodon isn’t inserting ads or hoovering up my data. I’m honestly sad that quote-toots are coming, because I really enjoy not seeing bad takes so that they can be dunked on. Can it last? I don’t know. I hope so?

I do miss the old web; I’ve relaunched my blog (not that I write that much on it). I’m still here and post more now than I did when I joined. But I’ve been here for more than 20 years! I ran blogs on Geocities where I manually wrote the entries into the HTML files. I remember print dailies and worked on print weeklies. I still listen to music by the album! At this point I don’t know if the way I want to approach media is anything other than a tiny, shrinking niche—and I don’t know how any of this is going to stay funded in a world where ad dollars are rapidly fleeing any text content that isn’t a search ad.

It’s happened before; the track of the web is not wildly different from the history of radio. Radio starts out as the province of techie tinkerers, happy to talk to each other. And then as the tech gets cheaper, and once folks figure out a business model, NBC and the other chains coalesce and drown out the tinkerers. They were still there, of course, with their ham licenses and cobbled together equipment, but it was just a tiny niche. I really don’t want the web to go that way, but we’re well down that path already.
posted by thecaddy at 5:22 PM on November 13, 2023 [7 favorites]

Re: CW - I don't, as a rule, except for spoilers. For other circumstances it depends. Maybe have been on the receiving end of terse demands, but I just lol, and replied, if there's anything wrong with their filters, which is another aspect that is 1) so far unmentioned and I must assume it's overlooked; 2) twt ppl I know assiduously use filters all the time so I have no time with complainers/HOA-type. I take that position because I do take time describing.

As far as I am concerned Bluesky is still vapor until the main instance actually starts to federate.

It's apparently happening, I don't quite understand it but this post seems to report fairly positively. I have no interest yet in checking out bsky.

In terms of discovery, the elephant in the room seems to be the threadiverse - the federated reddit softwares, kbin and Lemmy. (the flagship) slurps content and dumps anything public that doesn't have specific hashtags that gets sorted to specific magazines (their word for communities) to the catch-all random one. Check their microblog section if you really want a firehose.

I do like being on fedi tho, if anything I follow way too many ppl lol.
posted by cendawanita at 5:36 PM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I feel like the "people who prefer other social networks complaining about Mastodon" post genre jumped the shark a year ago. I'm genuinely surprised there are people still writing these. What's even the point?
posted by abucci at 7:08 PM on November 13, 2023

If you read the article or the discussion here, you will find many of us appreciate or have experienced some of the complaints about Mastodon. Even those of us who prefer Mastodon.
posted by Nelson at 7:24 PM on November 13, 2023 [6 favorites]

Some people here have mentioned that they don't understand certain things about how to use Mastodon.

Please ask me if you need help, I love explaining these kinds of things.

Memail me here, or contact me on Mastodon
posted by Zumbador at 7:32 PM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

I would say, as someone who has been using Mastodon heavily since 2017 that I think most or all of the point in the linked article are accurate.

Signing up to an instance is a huge pain these days, as there are very few with open invites, and some of the largest ones (, Universidon, qoto) have problems with them that aren't apparent from the outside ( is the default instance, and refuses to close registrations despite having far more users then it's moderation team can effectively deal with, and a history of it's mods refusing to deal with racism and other issues, for example.) Which means if you join an instance that looks good, all of a sudden you won't be able to talk to other people and depending on which one you join, and how bad it's reputation is, other people may be worried you have the value of the admin.

That said, moving instances is quite easy. I've done it...two or three times now, as I found instances that were a better fit or the instances I was on closed down. These days all your followers and people you follow go with you automatically.

The issues with anti-blackness are...not great. There is a culture clash between the queer people who founded it (Transphobpia, homophobia and such should be CWed so that people can take a break from it when needed) and the black community who finds being asked to do that to be oppressive. I have no idea how that conflict will be resolved or what will happen.

Also as to CWs vs filters; I think people are misunderstanding what CWs are for? Filters make a post GO AWAY. You don't see it, you can't click through it is gone. CWings are more like subject lines. I can CHOOSE if I want to click on it. If a major thing happens I'll read the first few to find out what is going on, but then I can choose not to interact with it for the rest of the day without having to leave mastodon entirely. Or I can put off reading something until after I've gotten out of bed and onto the bus, so I don't get stuck in bed due to despair and hopelessness and be late for work.

Or for a common example: Nudity and porn: I like looking at both of those things. However, I don't want to see them on the bus. A CWing lets me look at those when I'm at home, but not when I'm in public without having to create a second account.

Also: Tags are a lot harder to use, since there are so MANY ways of saying something. So things are always going to slip through your filter, whereas a CWing you read the message and choose if you want to open it, so even if you don't use a standard tag, the person on the other end can choose if they want to open it or not.
posted by Canageek at 8:23 PM on November 13, 2023 [5 favorites]

Fair, which is why my pinned posts include my introduction and spells out exactly what I post. I also mute ppl who gets boosted a lot that I don't care to see but what who my follows won't mind. When it comes to the firehose federated feed though, where it's absolutely a confluence of various norms, if someone is already needing that level of control, they ought not spend time there. I follow people who post nudes but they do cw - that's a subject matter that requires cw regardless, I agree. I don't follow those who don't or boosts those who don't. Otoh if you're on one of the misskey variants, you absolutely can boost with a cw for *your* followers. Which is also the other thing about asking bsky ppl about "mastodon". At this point, about a year in my feed is a diverse mix of federated softwares with their respective functions. *Key users can give emoji reacts for example, not that I can see them on my mastodon fork which registers everything as a like. Firefish has post import not just followers (not getting into the state of its development tho), as well as Sharkey, even if unlike mastodon, they still need to fix the problem of scaling - but that's an instance size challenge and within a federated ecosystem with the ideal of many midsize servers maybe this won't be an issue unless one's instance owner has visions of being a behemoth like m.s.

But since bsky is expected to federate, if not with fediverse then at least themselves, I'm sure pretty soon many of them would be like, pfft federation what's so hard about it omggg

Related? Jason Koehler (404): Mastodon is the good one: (though he's talking about it in relation to Threads)Mastodon had been decried by many (me, previously), as a social media platform that is too complicated or weird to sign up for. I had also convinced myself that people on Mastodon would be mad at me if I made jokes, which has (mostly) not been the case.

I’ve now been using it for about two months and I am here to tell you that it is, in principle, what we should want the internet to be. If you have been remotely interested in Mastodon but had reservations about joining because you thought it would be difficult, confusing, or otherwise annoying, it is not.

posted by cendawanita at 8:37 PM on November 13, 2023 [2 favorites]

CWings are more like subject lines. I can CHOOSE if I want to click on it.

This! My particular thing is Boston news - it's what I write about for a living. About a third of what I post is government-ish stuff (think city-council and zoning hearings), a third photos of interesting/cool things people tag me with (birds, sunsets, rainbows, trucks peeled back like sardine cans by our shorter parkway bridges) and a third crime stuff which, since we're a big city, can be pretty depressing. Not long after I started, somebody asked me to consider putting a CW on my crime posts. Made sense, so now if you really want to read my latest "Violent Boston crime" post you can, if not, you can just skip it. And I find myself wishing I could do that on other platforms, too.
posted by adamg at 8:50 PM on November 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I'm in a $20/year instance that's part of a curious little Internet services provider, and the Local feed is awesome. No scolding, no HOA, no inter-instance drama. Lots of tech people but a more fun layer of people who probably could have been tech-people-as-a-career but are instead in some sort of creative profession. Also pretty international for a paid instance running out of Louisville. The mood is light. They all like fiddling with their web pages and comparing phone homescreens and posting little reviews of movies, books, and tv. Sometimes they run polls about which Mastodon client is best.

I went there after I was on a photography-centric instance where I forgot to turn off crossposting from microblog and a few of my political posts escaped containment. The posts got deleted with a notice that I'd broken the rules and I decided I didn't want to keep accidentally griefing the kindly admins.

I have a friend on another instance who went on a real social justice journey over the past 15 years or so and is still pretty reliably social-y justice-y in his views, but he went from "unsure but willing to be convinced" on the panoply of conventions around content warnings, when to hide media, ok/not-ok topics to "crabby and resistant" after catching some scoldings over failing to add alt text to images. And it wasn't failing to add alt text to images he was posting, but in failing to go back to a post that was just a link to a newspaper article that pulled in an opengraph thumbnail and adding alt-text to that (which I think would have been contrary to a lot of the guidance, given the photos probably count as "decorative.") That just wouldn't happen on my instance, but definitely happened on his (along with a bunch of drama that included the trans lead admin getting run off over some inter-instance squabble).
posted by Pudding Yeti at 8:54 PM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

Not long after I started, somebody asked me to consider putting a CW on my crime posts.

And that's basically how the various norms opposed each other that makes last year's wave unwelcome in a racialized way. Even for filters your client should be able to toggle the setting to disappear a post or to collapse it for you to click through (I should've noted that - certainly I use that when it's apple launch week and I can see which posts I'm filtering).

It's okay if it's not to the taste of bskyers, but here's something interesting, when Pebble/T2 folded, they recreated for their userbase a mastodon instance .
posted by cendawanita at 8:57 PM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

And on the alt-text, adjusting for the scolds who now have a project, there's a visibly significant size of blind/low-vision users who certainly get boosted a lot and do get around, and being able to tell my mutuals who were being crabby (on an one-to-one basis, not put them on blast - that's also the nice bit about adjusting post visibility on the fly) that they're replying to a blind person has helped a lot. I do understand being annoyed by the scolds tho - but they rarely talk in a way that represents the interests of those who are blind/low-vision (to the point of scolding ppl for tagging their own posts #alt4u because they're not able to generate their own alt-text at the moment - but being Muslim I've seen that stupid impulse at play during fasting month where ppl are nagging ppl who post food pix)
posted by cendawanita at 9:04 PM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

Being bad here, don't have time to read the wall above, starting work. Talking about my experience and gut feelings:

Mastodon has UI and UX problems, they are far bigger than anybody who likes the thing wants to admit. This is not the time to make things difficult for your users, and Mastodon is slowly moving away from the silly idea that they know better, they know for sure, that it's good that I have to click fifteen times, or copy and paste, or search - just to follow somebody. Slowly moving forward.


The community is not the same concept as it was on twitter or as it is on bluesky. It's mostly people writing about things or talking and they usually will talk to you. That's the biggest difference. Twitter and bluesky are places that give me the vibe of American high-school movies, where people try too hard to be cool and popular and in some group of cool people. Places where you are rewarded for being a narcissist, saying wise and witty things over your shoulder for the plebs to peck at. On mastodon you find people, talk to them, stay chill.
posted by mayoarchitect at 12:08 AM on November 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Has anyone tried Spoutible?
posted by nofundy at 5:50 AM on November 14, 2023

It took me a couple weeks to get up and going on Mastodon, but now it serves many of the purposes for me that Twitter did. I can scroll indefinitely and be amused and informed. The thing I miss there is that one of the things I used Twitter for was talking about the local government. Mastodon does not have the local government officials and doesn't have nearly as many local government fans. But it does have some - I joined a local-themed server and we kept using the established hashtag for talking about the local government.

I really like the ability to follow hashtags!

It annoys me how many people have chosen Bluesky because it's such an obvious trap. If it's fun now, that's 100% a function of the people who happened to get the early invites. The instant they open the doors there, the insufficient moderation will become very apparent.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 5:53 AM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

i am mostly a consume-only, no-post user...I subscribe to a feed that turns quickposts from The Verge into Mastodon i am using it much like a RSS reader. Whatever Android client I am using has lots of little troubling UX details.
posted by mmascolino at 7:10 AM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Has anyone tried Spoutible?

The founder started giving me Nate Silver vibes with his "look how scientific and right I am" election coverage so I stayed away. Outside of that, I just don't think he had the reach or a strong enough alternative to offer for people who did hear about it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:26 AM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

None of the people I followed on Twitter seem to be on Mastadon, and I was largely following authors I like and a few political types. Apparently some/many are on Bluesky but you have to be a special person with an invite to be on BlueSky right now.

Mostly I find Mastadon kind of annoying, difficult to navigate, and clunky. Join an instance, find the federation and... I guess you get some stuff?

I mean, partly its that I want Twitter that isn't fucked up by Musk, and Mastadon is its own thing that I'm apparently not very into. But part of it is that Mastadon is just clunky and not all that functional.

I check it every now and then, see nothing that makes me want to stay, and close it for another few weeks.
posted by sotonohito at 9:11 AM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

you have to be a special person with an invite to be on BlueSky right now

For anyone who does want this: maybe try the swap spreadsheet from this MeTa thread? I'm not sure how up to date it is since that thread's a bit dormant, but I did just add a few invite codes to the sheet myself, so at least 3 are live at the time I'm commenting!

Re bluesky vs mastodon, I use both, but the set of people who went to each and stayed there seems really non-overlapping for me. Most of the bots I followed on twitter have analogues on mastodon though, so that's a lot of what I get out of it. Also, I finally did find a home server I'm happy with but the one before that was, which is sort of a general cautionary tale about many aspects of mastodon wrapped into one. It was a great server while it lasted, though.
posted by advil at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Neat, thanks!
posted by sotonohito at 10:32 AM on November 14, 2023

As advil says:

> Re bluesky vs mastodon, I use both, but the set of people who went to each and stayed there seems really non-overlapping for me.

Same. It's the people that count. And I like different people on both. Was it as simple as an algorithmically-populated feed? No. Do I want to be programmed by an algorithmically-populated feed? No. It's really a simple choice of how you want to spend your time.
posted by schmudde at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2023

I used Twitter as a less precious version of a little black notebook, where I'd write down quips and ideas so I could find them later, and if other people were entertained, yay, and if not, well, it was still a useful little notebook. Now I do it with Mastodon, and it's nice that my less precious version of a little black notebook has less of the stench of unholy corporations and malignant supervillains. It's confusing if I try to use it as a social venue, but I increasingly prefer intimate fondue parties, long conversations on an Ericofon, and bouncy road farming with friends in an old French car to the modern internet, so social media working badly is a decent way to push me away from vermicious screens. I guess that's a substandard reason to like something, but it works for me.

Also, precious little black notebooks come in a lot of sassy colors now.
posted by sonascope at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2023

I do understand being annoyed by the scolds tho - but they rarely talk in a way that represents the interests of those who are blind/low-vision

Yeah. I mean, I spent hours reading a number of resources about alt text to develop a sense of best practices, partially because I wanted to do it right, and partially because I sensed that the advice I was reading conflicted so much that I knew we were well into received wisdom territory, with a generous helping of "if a little is enough, way way more is better" maximalism.

On average, the bar is set low. I did read a few guides from museums and art schools that suggested a much more detailed, verbose writeup, but we're talking about text that allows one to consider a piece of visual art in some detail, so I considered the source. The bulk of the advice I read was more along the lines of "an alt-less image excludes people from the conversation." So I add alt text to images I post with a little descriptive flair if it's a photograph I took, and a little less descriptive flair if it's, like, a meme. And based on most guides I read, you aren't really supposed to annotate decorative images, which is what I'd argue most og: poster images are.

I see people who write very long alt text, and more power to them. I hope, if they get tired of doing it, they won't abandon the practice altogether, because you can make it easy on yourself and still be a good egg.

My friend tries very hard to do the right thing, got very frustrated with the scolding, and got very crabby about "the HOA." I did share the guide I wrote from my own findings, and that seemed to help make it feel attainable and livable to him.

Good example, to me, of how yeah, actually just going around being a strident scold can _cost_ you influence, especially if you view all this stuff as a matter of intense rigor as opposed to simply remembering intent. The people mad about og: images and the like are setting the bar super high out of their own ignorance.

But honestly I just don't see much of it. There was a lot of "we're living in a completely new world, let's do it completely right" energy during the late '22/early '23 influx. I understand there are still some instances that are more rigorous about a number of things than not, but that energy seems diminished. I occasionally see a "Gentle reminder: I won't boost your post if it doesn't have alt text" post go by, but not that often and ... whoop-dee-doo? Thanks for the reminder. When I see those, I sometimes reply with a link I found that explains how to do it vs. just demanding people do it. If you can take the time to type out "gentle reminder" you can take the time to paste a link and be actually helpful to people instead of basting in the endorphins of your own self-righteousness.
posted by Pudding Yeti at 7:38 PM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

When I first joined earlier this year I used to see some comments reminding people to use alt text. Overwhelming majority were extremely polite.

Since then there's been a gradually increasing tide of people complaining about "the HOA" and "scolds" that frankly, tend to be much more scoldy and butthurt than most of the things they're complaining about.

And also a steady increase of people posting without alt text.

I don't think it's rude or scolding to politely request that people should consider accessibility. In fact, I also don't think it's rude if the request is just plain straightforward.

Quite a few of the people who follow me are blind, and frankly, it's pretty cool when one of them likes my alt-texted posts.
posted by Zumbador at 11:56 PM on November 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

I've been enjoying my Mastodon experience. I was lucky enough to join a small subscriber based one in NZ ( in August of '22 just before things went really bad on the the Birbsite. Its nice, much more relaxed pace, posts fly by and rarely resurface so you feel a bit more 'in the moment'.

I know a few NZ peeps had a pretty bad on-boarding experience on the main instance due to some bad moderation + the general scoldy-vibe at the time. I think things have settled down a lot since then but in the interim a Bluesky seems to have absorbed most of the NZ twitter people looking for an alternative home.

I also think people used to twitters engagement experience would find Mastodon a bit quiet (dull even?) - you just don't get the likes/retweets that you'd get if you were used to an audience on twitter. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Biggest thing I miss (particularly since the API crackdown) are the fun accounts that probably exist somewhere but I haven't had a chance to find again (I think Jorts existed on the Fediverse but then he didn't, same with Giant Military Cats and a few other accounts).

Cat Mastodon seems to be slowly growing. Like twitter, my cats account gets way more likes than anything I post. I just more cats would create accounts in the Fediverse (tbf cat-twitter seems relatively unbothered by the enshittification of the platform - typically cat-like indifference).
posted by phigmov at 12:02 AM on November 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

On the subject of "no one to follow," the Mastodon Migration Blog just posted this massive list of people to follow, grouped by interest. That account may have other stuff of interest to the Masto-curious.
posted by adamrice at 3:52 PM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I joined Mastodon a year ago and Bluesky this summer. Lately I'm using Twitter, Mastodon, and Bluesky about equally. What I have always said about Twitter applies to all 3 platforms: each user's experience is different because each user follows a different set of accounts.

Twitter remains the most rewarding app for me simply because I have curated my account for 16 years and my interests are extremely varied. The vast majority of Twitter users have not migrated to other services.

Bluesky has @darth which is enough to make Bluesky worth having. DM me for invite codes.
posted by neuron at 10:26 PM on November 15, 2023

MetaFilter: "The attitude that "oh, if you don't like this thing it's probably just because you're stupid and un-self-aware and allergic to knowledge" is 100000% an indication that wherever that person is, is not a place I'm going to want to spend any time."

So - uh, I don't know if you intended your comment to be ironic, or it was just a happy coincidence.

But... communities have 'norms', and so does Mastodon - just-like-our-beloved-MetaFilter... You are just used to the norms here, but exactly what you describe has turned away many people from this site.
posted by rozcakj at 8:11 AM on November 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

I mean look I've quit metafilter at least four separate times, once for long enough that I forgot all my login stuff and just got a new name lol. Why would I start in with Mastodon (which is much more logistically challenging than MeFi) just to quit that a bunch too?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:31 AM on November 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

Voice, choice, and exit.

The other alt-text affordance is for people on slow or expensive data, who need a good reason to download a photo. And I hear of remote locales setting up their own instances regularly.
posted by clew at 2:42 PM on November 17, 2023

For me, the technology isn't really as immediately as important as the people. Since twitter became shitty, some people I like to interact with are still sticking it out there, others are on Blue Sky, and others are on Mastodon. In my case, the "covid conscious" crowd went to Mastodon, the more literary and quirky to Blue Sky and the obsessively political have stayed on Twitter (although some replicate their feeds on either Blue Sky or Mastodon). And a few people I followed on Twitter decamped to Threads, but good luck trying to see their content among all the random ads and clout chasing accounts. Some would consider this competition healthy, but to me to it makes social media less of a diversion and more of a chore because each space requires slightly different UIs, the work of curating a follower list, etc.

But I will say the norms and the vibe of Mastodon have made me less likely to post there. I see a lot stuff covered with "content warnings" that are just opinions. Someone once asked me to put a content warning over a photo that included a brewery logo when I posted about... enjoying a drink at a local brewery's patio. I didn't argue about it, but it felt odd and I didn't even know you could hide your post under a CW or what the mechanism was at the time. Increasingly, I notice that there are more automatic prompts when you create a post (i.e. I get an easy prompt for alt-text now when I didn't when I first joined - just as the article mentioned).

But I also remember that I had a Twitter account for many years that I didn't use because I didn't understand that at the time, so part of figures that all of these places just need to grow for a bit and then I'll be ready when I'm ready?
posted by Kurichina at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2023

Mastodon tackles the problem of ‘reply guys’ with its latest feature
Now, starting in the Mastodon app for Android, the company is experimenting with a simple reminder that will pop up when someone is about to respond to a stranger. The reminders may also include a bit of context — like if the stranger is an expert in their field, or if the post the user is replying to is old — to head off unnecessary or unhelpful commentary.
This sounds like a great idea and I'm glad they're trying it. It also sounds a little bit like moving the scolding right into the software.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on November 22, 2023

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