Mastodon 101 for Geriatric Millennials by a Generation X Dino

Cartoon of an mastodon with a satchel on a stick is being greeted by a variety of other mastodons in all shapes and sizes to a green bit of earth and trees. All the mastodons are happy to see the new visitor, hopeful that he will become a new neighbour.

Apparently, the folks who have been trapped by circumstance or their own values into continuing to work for Twitter have made a bad decision, the result of which has created a new influx of people to Mastodon, including a personal friend/advice columnist, some prominent Magic: the Gathering content creators, and an indie video game developer I’ve known from when I first got onto the Internet in the mid-1990s during my undergraduate years. Almost all of them expressed their frustration over Twitter on not knowing “how to Mastodon” and wanted a simple guide.

I am quite happy to provide this service in the form of a list of 10 things you can do as a new Mastodon user which will help you establish a firm foothold into the world of the Fediverse. This was adapted from a series of toots I directed at my friend Doctor Nerdlove, and I hope it can help other people as well.

1. The Explainer

Read this very good explainer about how Masto is and isn’t like Twitter or other social media sites you’ve used before: The reason why I like this one is that there are a lot of illustrations which will be useful to those who prefer to have images describe concepts alongside text which is easy to read when they’re learning about a new concept.

2. The #Introduction

Create an #introduction post replete with hashtags which, then follow the tags in your post to find people with whom you want to interact. You have up to 500 characters if you are on a basic Mastodon instance like the original one, so feel free to elaborate as much as you need to. Pin that post to your timeline. This is an important step because without it, people won’t know who you are and why they might want to add you to the list of people they follow. While you’re at it, complete your profile as well, which can echo your introduction post.

3. The Anti-Discrimination History

Start reading the posts in this series of posts to gain an understanding of the history of discrimination against Black people on Mastodon. Resolve not to be the kind of person who would do such a thing to Black, Indigenous, and other People of Colour. There may also be additional histories of how Mastodon has been good or bad to people of other intersecting social identities. Check out the hashtags for those social identities for their histories as well.

4. The #Hashtag

Create your own #hashtag and start posting under it. I’ve staked my claim on the #PublicAdministration one as well as the #CommunityDevelopment ones. Revel in the fact that you can now say that you’re the founder of the hashtag (if no one else has indeed posted in the tag before or is not as prolific as you). This is an important step for people who have or want to develop their own brand further.

5. The Interactions

Read a lot, and also respond a lot. But not too much! There is nothing more suspicious to me than a person who hasn’t made an original post and/or reply to someone else’s original post in the last 7 days from when they have requested to follow my feed. Backreading someone’s timeline can give you a sense of who they are and what they value and/or just plain like.

6. The Non-Pony

Accept the fact that Quote ReTooting is not an established practice and learn why. Develop your own method for sharing links to what people have been saying that is unique to you; you’ll have more fun with it that way.

7. The Etiquette

Have fun with your replies to random people on the same Masto server as you or on the Federated timeline, but be kind. The folks in Local are analogous to your neighbours and the folks on the Federated timeline are like the other people living in your municipality. Be kind and friendly to all of them. Having said that…

8. The Descriptions

Do not forget to include Alt-Text on your image uploads. It’s rude not to do so because it limits those who use screenreaders for any reason to from comprehending what you’re talking about. The character limit on those is even longer, which means you get to be even more creative in how you describe the image illustrating your post. Besides, if you post without alt-text and someone doesn’t natively have the context to appreciate the meme you created or shared, how else can they understand how clever you are being when you published the post?

9. The Intersections

Also, don’t use hashtags if you don’t self-identify with the community and/or social identity. That is also rude because of how differently Mastodon is structured compared to other social media platforms. As an example, even if I’m posting a link to a news article from Native News Online about how Northwestern Arizona University has received a $5 million USD grant to improve the supports available to Indigenous students, faculty, and staff there, I shouldn’t include the #Indigenous or #IndianCountry tags because I am not one. However, any tag surrounding #AsiansInAmerica, #Filipinas, or #AcademicMastodon are fair game to me. Your usage may and will vary.

10. The Helper

Finally, if you have specific questions, would like specific advice, or believe that I’ve missed an important step, please feel free to comment below or reply to this thread on Mastodon because I’m always happy to help people extricate themselves from using centralized messaging services whose company values do not align with their own.

Happy tooting!

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“Mastodon 101 for Geriatric Millennials by a Generation X Dino” by T.L. Renken-Sebastian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.