You don't have to leave Twitter to use Mastodon, and other stories

Screenshot of my Mastodon user profile, showing my photo, some URLs, and a short bio

This isn't about using Mastodon. I use Mastodon, and have done for a few years now.

Want to find me there? Please do! I'm @neil@mastodon.neilzone.co.uk. Anyone can follow me and, if you have a bio which appeals, or if it looks like you toot interesting things, I'll probably follow you back.

So, no, it's not about that.

It's not about not using Mastodon. What you use is up to you.

It's about leaving Twitter for Mastodon, which is completely different.

Or perhaps it's about not leaving Twitter for Mastodon.

I'm not sure.

I was not surprised, in the light of the announcement that Elon Musk has made an offer to buy control of Twitter, to see that some people might want to explore alternatives.

What did surprise me was seeing some commentary - not everyone; some - about leaving Twitter for Mastodon, or expressing concerns that Mastodon is not the same as Twitter.

Mastodon is not the same as Twitter. And that's a good thing!

It's not the same. It shares some similarities, just as it shares some similarities with email, but it's not the same thing.

And that, IMHO, is a good thing.

  • Decentralisation and federation are, for me, things which make Mastodon special. Things which Mastodon does better than Twitter.

  • Being able to find and join an instance of other like-minded people has both good and bad points: you might have found your tribe, but you might also get tunnel vision.

  • Being able to run your own server, or get someone to set up an instance of Mastodon for you. You are not beholden to someone else continuing to run it.

  • Moderation being done (or not) by the person or people who run your instance, not a central team. Where you've a more realistic chance of being able to have a sensible conversation with a moderator.

  • Being able to move instances if you don't like the instance you are on, and export your content in ActivityPub format, or your followers in .csv - open standards - and reimport it to a new instance. Putting you, the user, in control.

  • It is easy to add content warnings. Of course, not everyone will be of the same mind as to when a content warning is appropriate. But the facility to add one is very welcome.

  • Integrated, configurable, automatic toot deletion facility. (Although, obviously, you can't stop someone else keeping a copy of your toots.)

Does it have to be the same to make it attractive? I don't think so.

I follow fewer people, and have fewer followers, on Mastodon. Is that a good thing? Not a from a marketing point of view, although arguably the important thing is getting in front of the right people, not all the people.

From a content point of view? I don't know. I have had loads of interesting conversations, and met interesting people, just as I have through Twitter.

Are there things that Mastodon could do better? Yes, sure!

  • Running your own instance, or getting someone to set it up for you, is readily achievable, but it could be easier.

  • It would be ideal if private messages were end-to-end encrypted.

  • I'd like integrated auto-deletion functionality. Auto-deletion functionality came in the 3.5 release a month or so ago!

  • Following people with whom you have not interacted could be much easier.

Does one have to leave Twitter to use Mastodon?

I guess some people have different motivations.

Personally, I use both. Probably more than I should.

Rarely am I keen to jump from one thing to another, without an overlap period. Without testing things out before I make the jump. Sometimes - and this is an example - I don't jump at all. I just use something else too.

To me, there's no real downside in using both Twitter and Mastodon.

I often cross-post, using Twidere on my phone. (I can't wait until cawbird supports Mastodon as well as Twitter.)

The idea that one must migrate, must move from one platform to another, rather than picking up a new platform and seeing what it is like while still using your original platform(s), feels odd to me.

You don't have to pick one or the other. You can pick both.

"Mastodon isn't for me!"

Sure! There's no harm in giving something a try, and deciding it is not for you. And Mastodon has a "delete account" function, which is simple to use.

If it's not for you, it's not for you.

And you needn't have left Twitter to give it a try.


Author: neil

I'm Neil. By day, I run a law firm, decoded.legal, giving advice on Internet, telecoms, and tech law. This is my personal blog, so will be mostly about tech stuff, cycling, and other hobbies.

You can find me (and follow me) on Mastodon and Twitter.