A Few More Thoughts on My Move from Twitter to Mastodon

HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: My proposal (and budget!) for a virtual reality lab for my university library system is almost done, and soon I will be able to get back to blogging “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”, as the tagline of the RyanSchultz.com blog states. Thank you for your patience!

It’s been almost one month since I first decided to jump ship from Twitter after Elon Musk announced that he was buying the microblogging platform, and it seems like a good time to share with my readers my thoughts about the move.

In only 3-1/2 weeks, I have 150 followers on Mastodon, and I am already following 300 people!

The culture and ethos between Twitter and Mastodon are completely different, like night and day. There is a blessed absence of advertising and “influencers”, people are politer, there is a relative lack of trolls, and the lack of a quote feature means that people tend to talk to each other, instead of about each other. Partly, these differences are because Mastodon has a much, much smaller network of users than mighty Twitter. (Some stats: Mastodon has about 4.4 million users, while Twitter boasts over 396 million users.)

One thing I quite like in Mastodon is the ability to put a content warning (CW for short) on a post, so that the person reading it has to read the content warning and decide whether or not to click through to read and/or see the actual content. Here’s an example of a recent post I made with a content warning:

One person whom I am following on Mastodon, Rachel Sharp, wittily summed up the difference between Twitter and Mastodon as follows:

Tonight I spent a little time scrolling both Mastodon and Twitter, and I gotta say, the tone difference is just STAGGERING…

Mastodon: I put a content warning on my dinner in case anyone doesn’t feel like looking at food right now.

Twitter: THE WORLD IS BURNING AND SO TOO SHOULD EVERYONE ON THIS HELLBIRD SITE, AAAAAH!!!

After kicking the tires on a number of iOS apps, I have settled on a paid one, called Toot!, which I quite like (I tend to use it on my iPad while I am relaxing on the sofa in the evenings, before I go to bed). In addition to my main account on the mastodon.social instance, I also have an account on the scholar.social academic-themed instance (an “instance” is the term for a Mastodon server). I have discovered, much to my dismay, that for some reason, my employer blocks the former site, but not the latter. I also can use Toot! to monitor the local/community timeline on scholar.social, choosing to follow people from my main account on mastodon.social.

One of the things that I really like about Mastodon is that it is possible—and, in some cases, even encouraged!—to switch instances. For example, I could decide that I prefer the local, more focused community over on scholar.social, and move my main account over there. While your “toots” (what Mastodon calls tweets) do not follow you over to your new instance, the social network of people you follow can be carried over! So you’re not starting off from scratch every time you move, like you do on Twitter. I quite like the flexibility this offers!

All is not perfect, however. One thing I do miss is the ability to following certain Twitter accounts that are essentially feeds of tech news (e.g. Ars Technica). While Ars Technica does offer many RSS feeds, it looks as though I will have to learn a bit of Unix (or pony up for a premium IFTTT account) in order to set up a bot to automatically post Ars Technica news items, which I can then follow on Mastodon. (The good news is, that once I set this up, anybody can then follow it! Or, I could just bug Ars Technica to set up a Mastodon feed…) I am already keeping abreast of news sources like WIRED, the Guardian, and The New York Times via Mastodon, using bots that either the publications themselves or other users have set up.

And, let’s face it, every change does take a bit of adjustment. I have discovered that, while I have severely curtailed the amount of time I now spend on Twitter, I now find myself checking my Mastodon timeline several times a day! I seem to be just as addicted to the dopamine rush of getting my toots favourited, boosted (i.e. retooted), and commented on! I’m just glad that I am conscious of this, which is, of course, the first step towards addressing the problem of how I use social media in general.

I have retained my Twitter account, to (automatically) cross-post new items posted to the RyanSchultz.com blog, as well as any public toots I make over on Mastodon. And, of course, I will still use Twitter Spaces social audio, as it seems to be taking market share away from the Clubhouse app, which appears to be slowly circling the drain as it bleeds users, even as it adds new features. So, you might still find me on Twitter from time to time, even as I try to wean myself off reliance on the service.

This picture still makes me laugh whenever I see it!

If you are intrigued by Mastodon and want to try it out for yourself, please go to joinmastodon.org, pick an instance/server, and create an account. It’s easy and free, and then you can follow me at @ryanschultz@mastodon.social—follow me and I’ll follow you back! Please note: If you follow me from an account with zero information (no icon, no banner, no profile, no posts, no comments), I will most likely block you instead of following you back.

I Have Moved from Twitter to Mastodon

Image courtesy of Stux and 0xd9a on Mastodon: used with permission

Reacting to the unexpected announcement last week about Elon Musk buying Twitter, I have been working on a near-seamless transition away from Twitter to Mastodon, an open-source, federated system of microblogging servers. Just as any Twitter user can follow, mute, and block any other Twitter user, any Mastodon user can follow, mute, and block any other user on any other Mastodon server (called an instance). Here’s a handy seven-minus YouTube video which explains Mastodon and this federated system, called a “fediverse” (please note this video is three years old, so the stats given are out of date):

I have unfollowed hundreds of people on Twitter, sending out messages explaining what I was doing, and I was met with positive responses overall. And I was surprised and delighted that 20-30 people have actually followed me over to Mastodon, setting up new accounts! (If you’re interested in joining us on this adventure, please go to joinmastodon.org, pick an instance to create an account on, and follow me at @ryanschultz@mastodon.social. I will follow you back!)

In only one week, my new profile on the Mastodon instance mastodon.social has gained 50 followers!

I’m not leaving Twitter entirely; I know that many of my over 1,500 Twitter followers will not make the switch. Therefore, I will be (automatically) cross-posting new posts to my blog (like this one!), and I have set up a system where public “toots” (what Mastodon calls tweets) will also automatically be cross-posted to my Twitter account. I just tested it out this evening, and it works like a charm!

So, over the next few months, I will be spending less and less time on Twitter, and more and more time on Mastodon. Mastodon is actually part of a whole suite of interconnected, open-source federated software programs; for more info, please go to https://fediverse.info.

One thing I already love about Mastodon is NO ADVERTISING! Most Mastodon instance owners have a Patreon or Ko-Fi page where you can provide one-time or monthly financial support if you use and like the service. Another thing I like is the community! There are some really interesting people doing some wonderful things on Mastodon, and already I am following my first hundred people!

I have feeling that many other people will also be exploring their options, now that Twitter is owned by a rather capricious billionaire!

Every time I see this picture, it makes me laugh

Editorial: Elon Musk, Twitter, and Some Thoughts About My Relationship with Social Media

So, while I am supposed to be marking final assignments for a course I am team-teaching this semester, and working on a proposal for a virtual reality lab for my university library system, and worrying about a cracked tooth which may or may not be fixed and might still require a root canal, why the hell am I blogging about Elon Musk buying Twitter for US$44 billion?

I have a frankly lamentable history of jumping feet-first into new social networks ever since the early days of Friendster, circa 2003 (more details here and here). So it was with similar reckless abandon that, yesterday evening, I:

  • Set up an account on one Mastodon server, http://mastodon.online (which is run by the founder, CEO, and lead developer of Mastodon himself, Eugen Rochko), and then I was told that all the cool kids 😎 were hanging over at http://mastodon.social, so I set up an account there, too, and then set up a redirect from the former to the latter; and
  • Blasted out to most of my Twitter contacts that I was moving from Twitter to Mastodon:

After all this activity, I got myself so wound up last night that I could not fall asleep until quite late, and when I finally dragged myself out of bed this morning, suffering from you could call a social media hangover, I tweeted:

In other words, I went and did with Mastodon what I have done with every other new social network I have ever encountered: went hog-wild with the possibilities of making often-tenuous connections with other people, and operating under the delusion that my personal worth is somehow defined by the size, shape, and activity of my social graph! I am, however, getting much better at diagnosing the problem when it happens, and this time around, I figured it out within 24 hours, which is actually an achievement! So I will chalk this up as a win. 😉

Regardless of the impact of Elon Musk’s acquisition of and control over Twitter as a platform, I’ve decided that it’s as good a time as any to rethink my relationship with social media in general, and Twitter in particular.

For now, I’m going to keep one foot in Twitter, and plant my second foot in Mastodon (as my Plan B, in case I need to flee Twitter completely), then just wait, see what transpires, and act accordingly.

If you are curious and you want to kick the tires yourself on Mastodon, start here. You can also watch this two-minute YouTube introduction video:

P.S. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to look into Mastodon; PC Magazine reported that the service received an unprecedented flood of traffic yesterday.

P.P.S. Mastodon itself posted a blogpost about it: Twitter buyout puts Mastodon into spotlight. Here’s a bit of joining/promoting advice from that post:

We recommend using joinmastodon.org or our official iOS and Android apps to choose a Mastodon server to sign-up on, and to tell others to do the same when talking about Mastodon, instead of promoting our own servers directly. All Mastodon servers interoperate, allowing you to follow and be followed by other users from other servers seamlessly. And if you don’t like your choice afterwards, you can create another account and move all your followers to it. Distributing users across different servers is what makes Mastodon more scalable, socially and technologically.