Social Media

Mastodon: What You Need to Know About the New Social Network

Christian Cawley 04-05-2017

Social networks have gotten a lot of press attention over the past few years for the actions of irresponsible users. Even though most social networkers are happy to use the platforms for discussion, reasonable debate, and cat photos, a few bad apples have caused trouble.


Cyberbullying, NSFW content, terrorist propaganda, and extreme views can all be problematic. Twitter in particular has had difficulty in managing extremism The War Against ISIS Online - Is Your Security At Risk? Anonymous claim to be targeting ISIS websites, alerting many to the fact that the terrorists have an online presence. But how are they being fought? And what should you do if you discover ISIS online? Read More and propaganda. It’s also been poor at dealing with offensive behavior and bullying.

social network mastodon signup

Which brings us nicely to Mastodon, a new open-source social network that is focused on the user. What you want to see, what you want to ignore, what you want to share — these things are all governed by granular controls, meaning you retain complete control over what is seen.

Mastodon Instances for Everyone

If you head to to sign up, you’ll find that there’s more than one Mastodon. While they’re all connected, the various instances of Mastodon (all running on separate servers, administered by volunteers donating spare server resources) offer different experiences.

social network mastodon instances


For instance, the first you find might be focused on a particular topic, like technology or a TV show. Another might offer general discussion but with strict rules against “non-progressive” name calling.

Be wary, however. While you might find an instance that focuses on technology, you’re just as likely to stumble over one that offers pornography. Mastodon supports audio and video (see below), so you might run into material you don’t want to see. As a result, children should not use Mastodon unsupervised.

There are around 1,400 Mastodon instances. You can see the full list at, where you’re bound to find one to join. Here, you’ll see the status of each server, how often that server is online, whether they accept registrations, use HTTPS (the secure method of using the web What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More ), IPv6 (find out what IPv6 is IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] More recently, there's been a lot of talk about switching to IPv6 and how it will bring a lot of benefits to the Internet. But, this "news" keeps repeating itself, as there's always an occasional... Read More ), and numerous other things.

Signing Up for Mastodon

Once you’ve found an instance you like the look of, sign up. You’ll need to provide a username, valid email address (for account verification) and a strong password. After signing in with a verified account name, you’ll see a columnar user interface, similar to Twitter’s Tweetdeck web app Tweetdeck Teams: How to Manage or Share a Twitter Account If you share a Twitter account with others, perhaps managing a brand or just running a cool creative handle, then Tweetdeck just got a whole lot better. Say hello to the new Tweetdeck Teams. Read More .


social network mastodon home

You’ll see four columns:

  1. Your profile and Toot field — A Toot is the Mastodon equivalent of a Tweet.
  2. Home — Toots from people you follow will appear here.
  3. Notifications — Any Toots directed your way, and other activity, is listed here.
  4. Getting started — Here you’ll find a list of views, from the Local timeline (from users on the same instance as you) and the Federated timeline (the full timeline across all instances), as well as details of blocked and muted users. You’ll also find a link to the Preferences screen.

social network mastodon profile

The first thing you should do before sending a Toot, however, is to click Preferences. From there, set up your avatar image, preferred username, and profile. You can do this in Edit Profile. There’s also a link in the Profile column.


Once you Save Changes, click Back to Mastodon, and use the Search field to find users discussing topics you’re interested in. When you find someone, open their profile, and click the Follow button.

social network mastodon follow

The more people you follow, the more interesting the Home column will be!

Get Tooting

Ready to share your thoughts with the world of Mastodon? Unlike Twitter, where you have a mere 140 characters to share your thoughts, Toots can comprise up to 500 characters. This means  you can share a lot more in one go!


Like Twitter, you can add hashtags and @ mentions to your Toots.

A wide selection of emojis is available for you to add to your Toots, and you can also upload photos. The CW button enables you to set a custom content warning. This will obscure your tweet until a reader clicks on it. Similarly, the NSFW button will appear when a media link or image is added.

social network mastodon posting

Photos can be added from your device via the camera icon. How your post is disseminated across the instance and beyond is determined via the globe button.

Safety, Security, and Privacy With Mastodon

The globe button, labelled Adjust status privacy, is one of the most important elements of your Mastodon experience. Each Toot can be given a privacy level:

  • Public — Posts to public timelines.
  • Unlisted — Not displayed in public timelines.
  • Private — Posts to followers only.
  • Direct — Posts to mentioned users only.

This focus on privacy and safety is further enhanced via the Settings > Preferences screen. Here, you can specify a default post privacy setting and configure notifications. For instance, if you want to block notifications about activity by non-followers, you can check the corresponding box and click Save Changes.

social network mastodon preferences

Additionally, two-factor authentication What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More  is available for your Mastodon account. Sure, it’s a new social network and many cybercriminals will prefer the low-hanging fruit of established services. But it’s better to be safe and secure online than not. Indeed, several mobile apps are available for Mastodon, so enabling 2FA enabled is a wise idea, just in case someone nabs your phone.

Make Mastodon Mobile

All current mobile platforms have Mastodon client apps available.

  • Windows 10/Xbox One/Windows 10 Mobile users should go for the Mastodon app, a straightforward client app that brings the instance to your device. You’re currently locked into this instance, but you’ll be able to join others later.
  • Several Android clients are available for Mastodon, but the top pick has to be the imaginatively named Tusky. This open source client will let you interact with your preferred Mastodon instance and share words, pictures, and videos just as you would through the browser.
  • iOS users can use the Amoroq for Mastodon client. This comes with the same features you would enjoy in the browser, including emoji support, GIF and video upload, hashtag search, and so on.

Time to Toot, Not Tweet?

From a peak in 2014, Twitter’s share price has been in sharp decline. Extremism is turning off users. Bad behavior and rudeness is turning the once-popular and respected social network into an arena of unpleasantness.

In short, Mastodon is a great alternative to Twitter, and one that might actually get out of the starting gates and make its presence felt. While it might currently be devoid of celebrities (or even people who got famous purely from social networking These 5 People Got Really Famous Just By Using Twitter There's tons of celebs who got famous and then made their way onto Twitter. And there's a few who did it the other way around. They got on Twitter, and then got famous. Read More ), that shouldn’t stop you from trying it out. Spend a few days giving it a try — Mastodon might just be the social space you’ve been looking for.

Have you tried Mastodon? What did you think of the mobile apps? Or would you rather social networks just went away? Tell us in the comments!

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