Maybe it's the advertisement. Maybe it's the policy. Perhaps it is brutal harassment and paper-thin protection for the users. Maybe it's the Nazis. Whatever your personal reason, you have come to the conclusion that it is finally time to quit Twitter.
Great. Welcome to Mastodon.
The story so far
I do not like how my relationship with Twitter has surat. When I first started with Twitter in 2008, it was held together with chewing gum and scooters, but dynamically and growing with the help of dedicated fans and third party customers. I made new friends there and stayed in contact with the old ones. I discovered such luminaires as Dril.
But by 2014 it had already started to feel like a saturated character. And then, mass destruction campaigns like Gamergate suddenly became commonplace, the shocks raging, and the platform's role in election interference made it even more different. Twitter ended up not only being fun, but it is sometimes a dangerous and unpredictable place.
About the same time, Twitter came to his nadir, a new social network called Mastodon. Anti-advertising alternatives to social networks were not new-Diaspora and Ello had already come and (mostly) gone when Mastodon debuted. But Mastodon needs an urgent need at a time of real crisis. It offers an ad-free, community-supported Twitter-like microblogging service, and has baked anti-harassment tools right from the start.
Mastodon didn't click directly on me. It took some false starts and some help from friends a bit good and more knowledgeable than myself. But now I love it as if I did Twitter a decade ago.
Step 1: Remove or close your Twitter account
Time to close the portal to hell! You have some options on how to do this: either disable your account or lock it so posts are no longer public. We have an exhaustive look at how you not only delete your Twitter account, but also delete all your tweets. I summarize below.
You start by logging into Twitter and clicking on your avatar at the top right. In the menu that appears, select Settings and Privacy. You should arrive at the account section. To disable your account, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the account section and click the link that reads Disable your account. The next page is a warning, but also a way out: you can choose to have a 30-day or 12-month reactivation time.
Personally, t think it is a good idea to remove a social media account that was once active. There is no guarantee that you will only delete the delete button deleting your data from the company's servers, so maintaining the account will at least give you the control. Plus, if anyone were to question you on that service, it would be important to have access to your old account to contain the damage. There are also tools that help you find your old Twitter friends on other services that require your Twitter account to still exist.
If you are deadly when you disable your account, you may want to extract a copy of your archive first. This is a complete copy of your tweets, including your retweets, in a static HTML file and associated folders. There are also services that allow you to delete all your tweets, which means your account is active but empty.
Instead of disabling your account, you can also make it effectively invisible. In the privacy and security of your Twitter settings, click the checkbox that says Protect your tweets.
This locks your account. All new posts will be hidden, but Twitter warns that old ones may still be visible. While you are here you can also prevent others from finding your Twitter account via email or phone number and preventing people from tagging you in pictures. You may also want to prevent future messages or messages from Twitter, which you can manage from the Messaging and Email messages areas of your Twitter settings.
Because you may not be using Twitter for a while, make sure you have two-factor authentication enabled for your account. An unattended account is more likely to be hijacked than what you use every day.
If you choose to keep your Twitter account, it is a good idea to leave a forwarding address. Drop a Tweet pointing people towards your new home at Mastodon, and pin it to your account.
Step 2: Remove the Twitter app from your phones and tablets
It may be scary, but it will feel so good. If you are on Android, tap and drag the Twitter app to the top of the screen and release the Uninstall icon that appears at the top right of the screen. If you are on iOS, click and hold the app until it jiggles and then press X on the icon at the top left.
Some use the instant message (Twitter) to communicate with friends and family. Thankfully we live in a golden age of group texting alternatives. You can use your default messaging client or choose an option that uses your data plan.
Facebook Messenger is a popular option for group messaging, but if you want to avoid social media tyranny giants, it's not the best choice. Note that you can choose to create encrypted messages with Facebook Messenger, but it is a bit tricky. WhatsApp is also a popular choice and is also owned by Facebook, and it now offers encrypted messaging as standard. My personal favorite is Signal, which attaches great importance to privacy and security. In fact, its underlying technology is already used to secure WhatsApp calls and private Facebook Messenger chats. Security is critical in a messaging program.
Now that you've packed your digital bags, it's time to move on.
Step 3: Creating Your First Mastodon Account
Getting started with Mastodon is the hardest part, because it is not always clear where should begin. That's because Mastodon is not monolithic, like Facebook or Twitter. Instead, it is a federated service that is more related to email. Just as you can create an e-mail account on any service you want to protonmail, gmail, hotmail and so on and still send e-mail to users on different vendors, Mastodon lets you sign up on one of many sites running the Mastodon software , called instances. Each user can communicate with Mastodon users in different cases.
It's good in theory, but it can be overwhelming in practice. I recommend that you go directly to Mastodon.social/about. This is the flagship agency for the service, runs the latest version of Mastodon, and has the most users. It is a great way to get a feel for how the service works. If you feel confident, go to JoinMastodon.org and look over a list of most available instances.
Registration is simple, just a username, email address and password. Mastodon is an open-source community project, so gathering information about you is not their business model. There is actually no business model. The goal is to create a useful and sustainable social experience.
The first time you log in, you will be greeted with a friendly tutorial. I strongly recommend that you read it, if only to see some cute cartoon mastodones. One important note to note is your full username, which is formatted thus:
[username] @ [mastodoninstance.domain]
See? Like an email address. For the most part, it is only abbreviated to @ [username] but the full name is your specific account at a specific Mastodon instance. Mastodon is called Tootsuite, and it draws a lot from Tweetdeck's multiple choice look. There are other ways to see your Mastodon timeline which is more Twitter-like but vanilla Mastodon.social experience is a great way to start. You leave Twitter, after all, why not leave its interface?
Once your account is created, you can make changes by clicking on the gear icon at the far right of the column to the left. 
The first setting screen you see is Settings. This changes the default behaviors and can filter out posts in languages you don't understand. Some useful privacy options are check boxes to opt out of search engine indexing and hide your network.
Click Edit Profile to do so. Most of the options will be familiar to anyone who has used social media over the past decade, but some options stay out. The Lock Account option allows you to approve requests from people who want to follow you. In the Profile metadata section, you can add links or personal statistics to your bio page. If you want to show a preferred pronoun, a link to a personal website or the batting average, this is the place to do it.
The verification part has been added from Mastodon 2.6, and works differently than verified accounts on Twitter or Facebook. On these platforms, the company verifies you if they consider you worthy. At Mastodon, your identity is verified by adding a link to your personal website. The goal is not to get a nice checkmark, it is to give a little more confidence that you are the one you say you are. It is also completely voluntary.
When exploring the setup page, be sure to stop in the "Two-Factor Auth" section. Two-factor authentication makes it harder for an attacker to take control of your account. It makes logs a little longer, because you have to enter a special code, but it is well worth the peace.
Step 4: Find Your Friends from Twitter
The problem with Twitter is not all people, it is the sweet pursuit of monetization systems and surrender to (and coddling of) polo-shirted fascists. So finding your friends from Twitter at Mastodon is important.
You can start by asking yourself, but a useful way to find and find at Mastodon is Mastodon Bridge.
19659002] This simple tool works like any other Twitter apps, and helps friends find each other over social networks. Just click on the Twitter button on the left and log in to your Twitter account. Then click on the Mastodon button to the right and log in to Mastodon. Then you just follow the instructions!
The Bridge app has limited access to your accounts and acts as a radiation for others using the Bridge tool. When they shoot up, they will receive alerts that you have also made the jump to Mastodon and get the opportunity to follow you.
Step 5: Submit your first toot
The right-hand left column is your starting point. In the middle, a text box prompts you to write what you like. You have 500 characters to play with, or more depending on the instance you join, write as much or as little as you like. When you are ready to send, just click the Toot button. That's all! At Mastodon, posts are called Toots instead of Tweets.
You can add an image by clicking on the camera's icon, pasting an image from your clipboard or clicking and dragging a photo over the page. When an image is added, you can add a description for the visually impaired. If your image is NSFW, have some content that people may not want to see, or appear better as part of a gag, click on the eyeball icon. This will hide the image in people's flows; they simply have to click to reveal it.
Similarly, the CW icon lets you create a content warning. This opens a new text field above the main field, where you can write a warning about what to share. Being able to opt out of the content is an advantage of using Mastodon, so it is a good idea to use CWs frequently. For example, when discussing sensitive topics such as mental health or politics, I always use a CW so that people can choose whether or not to read. I sometimes use a CW when I talk about movies or TV shows I love. Not because it's dangerous content, but because some people just don't care to read my ramblings about Star Trek. A toot with a CW only shows what is in the CW field in human flows. They have to click to read the entire Toot.
Finally, the icon world you can choose how visible your Toot is. The default options are public, which means it will appear in all timelines. (You can change the default visibility in Preferences.) Unlisted means that your Toot will only appear in other users' timelines, not in public feeds like that on Mastodon.social/about page. Followers-just hide your toot from anyone other than your followers. The last option Direct, is similar to a DM on Twitter. The toot will only be seen by the people you mention with their username in the mail.
A good first Toot would probably be an introduction! Say who you are and use hashtags #intro, #introduction or #introductions. List your interests as hashtags, so your Toot will appear in searches and timelines. My intro mentioned #journalism and #infosec.
Step 6: Get to Know Your New Home
A search field above the Toot text field is both more and less powerful than you expect. Mastodon, by design, cannot be searched for arbitrary names or words that Twitter can, to prevent harassment. #hashtags and usernames can be searched, as well as the specific URL of a Toot or a user's page. You should use #hashtags on posts that you want to see by other users. Search results appear as their own column. You can save the search as a semi-permanent column by clicking the radio button in the right-hand corner of the column and clicking Pin.
There are five shortcuts over the search field. The three-button buttons will return you to the main page of the page. The icon showing three people is local timeline. This will show you all public posts in your instance. The globe icon pulls up the federated timeline, showing all public posts in all of the Mastodon instances that connect with yours. In the case of Mastodon.social, this is more or less all of the Mastodon posts on Earth. The switch icon opens the settings window and the far right icon logs you out.
Each Toot has four icons that will probably be familiar to anyone who has used Twitter. The arrow icon lets you answer Toot in a thread. The arrows in a rectangular circuit icon allow you to increase a Toot, which is the same as retweeting or reblogging. Note that you can only increase a Toot, you cannot increase with a comment attached. This is through design. With the star icon, you can mark a Toot as your favorite and the nearby three-point button shows advanced action you can take. Two of the notes: Delete and Redraft delete your Toot and add a copy of the deleted Toot text in the new Toot edit field and the Mute conversation turns off messages for a particular Toot. It's handy if people decide to have a call in the answers to one of your Toots.
The right-hand right-hand column has many of the same controls as the former left, and the others are self-explanatory. The home column shows posts from people you follow. Click on the setup icon and you can hide startup and answers if you wish. As in Twitter, Mastadon's Notification column shows interactions with your Toots. By default, it is divided into All and Mentions, whose latter only shows answers to your Toots. You can also have a more granular breakdown of interactions as well. Click the setup icon to change which warnings you receive and how to receive them.
Step 7: Editing Your Experience
Each instance, including Mastodon.social, has different permissible content standards. Some agencies allow everything, others have volunteer administrators and codes of conduct. The broad and powerful administrative tools are one of the draws of Mastodon. Admins can, for example, block entire instances from connecting to theirs, if a particular instance becomes a known problem.
Each user also has the option of turning off, reporting or blocking users. If a particular instance disturbs you, just click on any user from that example and click the three button button on their bio page and then click "Hide everything from [domain]." In the Filters section of the Settings menu, you can filter out words or phrases.
Step 8: Starting a New Life on Mastodon
When you are comfortable at Mastodon.social, take a look at the great community of Mastodon users. Mastodon.social is a common example, but other agencies may be designed to cater for specific sites, interests, groups, or anything else! Some instances are intentionally small, to create a sense of society, others are forbidden.
Each Mastodon instance has its own URL, so you can log in as many as you like at the same time. I recently moved from mastodon.social to infosec.exchange, which is more focused on security issues. I also have an account at tenforward.social, to talk about Star Trek.
When looking for a new instance to join, your first stop should be JoinMastodon.org. Here you can read about how Mastodon works and why it is good, and you can browse a list of Mastodon instances to join. Browse all the way down to the bottom of the page and you will see a section called Sign Up. Here you see a list of many, but not all, Mastodon instances you can make to your digital home. Mastodon administrators take full advantage of top-level available domains to name their instances, so get ready for some exciting names.
If you want to move from one instance, you can close it and leave a forwarding address. Go to Settings, Edit Profile and scroll down to the bottom. You can delete your account or redirect others to your new Mastodon home in another instance. On the Import and Data Export pages, you can bring your followers, as well as your blocks and mutes, to your new home.
If you're not a fan of the standard Tootsuite interface, there are other options for web applications to explore. Pinafore is an example, but there are others. Sign in with your Mastodon account, and you're good to go. Some web applications allow you to easily switch between multiple accounts at different instances.
There is also a healthy number of mobile Mastodon clients. Of those I have used, Amaroq is an excellent iOS option and Fedilab stands out on Android. Fedilab is remarkable, as it is extended to support other federated social networks, not just Mastadon.
Step 9: Explore Fediverse
Mastodon is just one of a growing community of social sites and services built on the ActivityPub protocol. Other open source social protocols can also communicate with ActivityPub projects. Together they are called Fediverse (that is, a universe of federated applications).
If you like Mastodon, or are at least curious about what a completely different model for social internet looks like, then run headlong into Fediverse. The Switching.social site maintains a practical list of alternative services, and whether these services are committed, that is, communicating with other sites.
For example, Pixelfed is an ActivityPub-driven Instagram replacement, while Plume takes on Medium to blog on ActivityPub. Pleroma is a more Twitter-like microblogging service. All these services and others can communicate with each other even though they fill radically different niches.
It's a brave new world out here in the Fedivers, have a good time exploring it. If you have any tips or tricks to get started at Mastodon, be sure to let other readers know about them in the comments.