In the wake of Elon Musk’s acquisition of my most beloved/accursed website, I have joined the trend of trying out Mastodon, the most direct alternative to Twitter. Many people have found tutorials (like this one) for joining Mastodon intimidating, as they spend a lot of time on the decentralized architecture and idiosyncratic terminology. But none of that matters after you initially sign up!
So here’s a stripped-down guide for what to do:
- Go directly to zirk.us, a Mastodon server that aims to attract academics and intellectual types.
- Sign up for an account using the extremely straightforward form that is like signing up for accounts for almost anything on the internet.
- Click on the link in the confirmation email — which is, again, just like basically every other account you’ve ever signed up for.
- Sign in and you will see an interface that’s a lot like Twitter! OMG!
- Click on your profile and copy the link over to Twitter, so that people know where to find you.
- Presumably at least some people will follow you, meaning you can follow them back, see their retweets, and then follow more people. You probably won’t get back up to your same follower levels any time soon, but don’t you want a change of pace? (Note: if you are following people who are on different servers, you may have to do an intermediary step where you copy your handle — your user name with the server appended — into a form. This is not stressful or a big deal.)
- In your profile settings, click yes for the thing that asks if you can be recommended — that will help people find you.
- Ignore the embarrassing Mastodon terminology and just refer to the parallel functions in the familiar way, because they work exactly the same.
If zirk.us doesn’t appeal, I’ve seen a lot of people going for Mastodon.social, but that one seems more likely to be overwhelmed with traffic. There are also plenty of other servers you can try, but the thing to focus on is: it does not matter. All that matters is that you have a starting point for accessing the network. The only way it can become an issue is if your server is too slow or unresponsive. Then you need to switch servers. Here’s my guide to how to do that:
- Ask yourself, “Have I done anything with this account that’s actually worth preserving yet?” The answer is going to be no.
- Delete the account on the crappy server.
- Choose a different server and go back to step 1 on the list above.
If you want to use it on your phone, I have downloaded Tusky for Android. I don’t have an iPhone, but the above-linked tutorial recommends Tootle. As often happens, the “official” phone app seems to kind of suck. You’ll need to sign in by sharing your server and username. Then you can use it just like you use Twitter, because the technical details of the servers don’t matter for most of the functionality.
Once you’re signed in, come find me and give me a toot!