Myths About Mastodon

If you’re new to the federated social network, this is for you.

Myths About Mastodon

Mastodon began as a personal project by Eugen Rochko, but blossomed into something so much more. Yes, it is a way to fight back against Elon Musk’s takeover of twitter, but it’s also something exciting in its own right. This article is about explaining, in the simplest terms, what Mastodon is and how it works.

Let’s get a few things out of the way as quickly as possible:

Mastodon is served by a non-profit organization that continues development, it is entirely crowdfunded and currently makes a measly $144,000 per year from its Patreon. That’s not a lot when it comes to developing something as incredible as Mastodon.

Mastodon doesn’t run ads and doesn’t have big corporate backers. There are no shareholders. There is no single company that holds all of your data.

These are points I’ve seen floated by people new to the idea of Federated socials. People are either fearful of signing up for just another Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter, where their hard-created social communities can be just suddenly destroyed. I get that! But the whole point of Mastodon is to avoid just that sort of thing from occurring.

MYTH: Mastodon is a collection of individual servers, and you have to pick which one you want to be a part of: nope! This is absolutely not true. By joining ANY Mastodon server, you instantly have access to all the other servers. The more friends you make, the more people you connect with, the stronger and larger the network.

If you join a server called @mastodon.scifi-fanatics you can still interact with your friend who joined @mastodon.fantasy-fanatics. You can add one another as friends, you can share one another's posts, and you can see what the other person is publicly reblogging.

MYTH: My data is at risk with a Mastodon server in a way it isn’t with a big tech company like Twitter! Firstly, no. Your data is at risk in the same way — but there’s even less chance someone is profiting by selling your life as a commodity to hungry advertisers. Of course, the truth is complex, as it is with all internet software. But, ultimately, the way Mastodon works allows you to be potentially far more secure.

  • Every server will be run by a person or organization that operates the hardware and keeps the software up-to-date. You can vet these servers by exploring their About sections, checking up on the profiles of the people who administrate them, and listening to what other users recommend. That way, you’re able to avoid the server that keeps going offline because it’s run by somebody named Bob from a laptop in his basement. Instead, you’ll be able to join servers that have good uptime, a solid team of supportive volunteers, and good practices regarding data safety. REMEMBER! When Twitter changes their privacy policies suddenly, you don’t get a say. If your Mastodon server suddenly gets a new owner, you can move to a new server in a heartbeat and delete the data you’ve left behind.
  • Mastodon Servers can close down! Usually, when this happens, you’ll have time to migrate to a new “instance” — that is, a new provider of the Mastodon software. This would look like moving from @mastodon.coolnews to @mastodon.fansoftechnology. You'd move your data to a different provider, but all the connections would remain intact. Best of all, this process is really easy, and built into Mastodon be default. Remember how hard it was to close down your Twitter account and try to migrate your connections to a different service? That's not a problem with Mastodon.

MYTH: Mastodon isn’t a place for “building your brand”: what this really means is, Mastodon values real human connection. Building follower numbers can be a lot slower there, but those followers are also likely to be more engaged.

Think of it this way. Imagine you’re an author, and you gained one thousand followers on Twitter. Maybe ten of those followers would go out and buy your new book. Maybe a hundred would share your post about your new book. Because the communities already in place on Mastodon value community over simply acting as self-promo-mills, if you connect with them genuinely, the percentage of people who interact and buy your book could be much higher.

Look, ultimately, Mastodon will be what you make of it! If you get your group of closest friends to join, it’ll probably feel like home. And you’ll make plenty of new friends as well. If you want to promote your books, your music, your video games, your new cool company — you can do that. The engagement will feel more real, you’ll experience fewer strange bots, and the experience of social media should ultimately be vastly improved.

Whatever you do, though, stop letting Elon Musk’s terrible ego, and Jack Dorsey’s self-serving plans of social modification, run your life. You’re an incredible creative person, with a spirit for adventure, and you can take back the power that these men have stolen. You can take your power back today.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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