How to Join Mastodon and Start Posting
- Mastodon is a “decentralized” social media platform that’s become a popular Twitter alternative.
- To join Mastodon, sign up on the website or app and then pick a server (or “instance”) to join.
- Once you join, you can follow all your friends and see their posts too.
For almost two decades, Twitter has been a social media juggernaut. But nothing lasts forever, and some new competitors are starting to crawl out of the woodwork to take Twitter’s spot.
One of the most popular Twitter alternatives is Mastodon. This social media platform works similarly to Twitter, but instead of everyone posting to a single public website, users are gathered in servers known as “instances.” There aren’t any ads, and it isn’t run by any one company.
Here’s how to join Mastodon and get started on the platform.
How to join Mastodon
You can sign up for Mastodon using the website, or the official mobile app if you’re on an iPhone, iPad, or an Android. But we recommend using the website first, since it’ll show you the widest variety of available servers when you join. This guide also assumes you’re using the website.
When you’re ready, select Create account. You’ll be brought to a page that lets you pick your first server.
Your server is sort of like your home base, and the majority of posts you see (at least in the beginning) will come from that server, so pick one that fits your interests. Every server has its own rules and moderation team. But don’t worry: You can follow people no matter their server.
Pick the server you want by finding it in the list of suggestions or searching for it, and select Apply for an account or Create account. Most servers require you to submit an “application” to join, but that application usually just asks for your name and email to make sure you’re not a bot.
If you picked a server that requires an application, use the page that opens to make your Mastodon account by creating a username and password, and adding your email address. Some servers might also ask a question, like “Why do you want to join?”
If you picked an open server, click or tap the Create account button again at the side or top of the page, then create your display name, username, password, and put in an email address.
The server will send you an email with a confirmation link. Open the email, and then open the link.
If you joined a server with an application process, you’ll now need to wait for the server’s owners to approve it. Depending on the size of the server, this can happen quickly or take a long time — especially considering how many people are flocking to Mastodon right now.
But if you picked an open server, you can start reading and posting right away. It’ll also give you a list of other suggested Mastodon users to follow.
Finding your Twitter friends on Mastodon
If you’re coming from Twitter, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a way to quickly track down the people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon.
To do this, head to the Debirdify website and click Authorize With Twitter, and then link it to your Twitter account. This tool will go through the users you follow and locate them on Mastodon, so you can quickly follow them again.
Just remember that the site is seeing a lot of users, so it might run slowly or give you errors. If this happens, just be patient and try again.
How to use Mastodon
Once you’ve signed up and joined (or been accepted to) a server, you’re ready to start posting, replying, and following friends.
Tap Publish at the top of the screen (if you’re on mobile) or click the text box on the left side (if you’re on a computer) to start writing a post. You can use the icons at the bottom of the text box to add images, a poll, choose the post’s privacy level, add a content warning, or mark what language it’s written in.
At the side of your screen, you’ll find a few different ways to find other posts:
- Home (the house icon) shows posts exclusively from people you’re following
- Local (the people icon) shows posts from the server you’re located in
- Federated (the globe icon) is a constantly updating timeline of every public post being published in your server, or by someone that a member of your server follows
You’ve also got Explore, which shows recent popular posts; Direct messages, which lets you have a private conversation with someone; and Favourites, which lets you save the best posts you’ve seen.
To follow someone, search their name (or preferably username if you have it) using the search bar at the top of the screen.
Every post has a few icons at the bottom. Use these to reply, “boost” the post (share it to your own feed), favorite it, bookmark it, or share it.