A user-friendly guide on the Twitter vs Mastodon debate, focusing on what’s relevant to your needs as a regular user.
At the time of writing, Mastodon, Twitter’s supposed new rival, has officially reported a 519% increase in users to 2.2 million monthly users since Elon Musk took over.
I believe most of these people are making a mistake. They are victims of FOMO and are leaving true value in pursuit of a fantasy which will either collapse or be unrewarding for their social and professional lives.
Should you leave Twitter for Mastodon?
This article contains five topics to help you decide without the boring technical details.
- Can you monetize Mastodon, or it’s just a place to chill?
- When compared to Twitter, how does it help you grow?
- Is Mastodon more secure than Twitter? How much control do you have?
- Is Mastodon user-friendly?
- Why Elon Musk heading Twitter may be good for you
Mastodon is like Twitter, but its most significant selling point is decentralization. It has been around since 2016/7, so it’s been around for a while.
You will notice that there is a debate that Mastodon isn’t a social media platform, and it boils down to semantics. Best you focus on what it can do for you and what it doesn’t.
Let’s start with the features.
On Mastodon, you have servers/communities called Instances. This is where your interactions happen. You can create your own Instance, and anyone who wishes to join should follow the community guidelines you set.
You can kick them out if they break your rules or even if they slightly annoy you or are getting too much attention. The point is, it’s yours, and you can make the rules as petty or benevolent as you want them to be.
However, creating an instance is more complicated than creating a WhatsApp group, and you will need many more supporting technologies.
Instances can interact and interconnect to form a Fediverse or Federations, much like independent cooperative islands. So you are not bound to one Instance.
Unless you intend to create your servers and Instances, you don’t need to know how all this works, the same way you don’t need to see how the Twitter or Meta algorithm works to enjoy their services.
Admins can create these groups/instances around identities, discussion topics, or anything they choose. On Mastodon, a racist or misogynistic Instance can exist. However, Mastodon’s official site explicitly states that it doesn’t endorse or recommend such to its users.
You also need to note that if an instance admin deletes an Instance, recovering your content may get tricky, to say the least. Check this discussion on that here on GitHub.
If you go to this page by Mastodon, you will notice that servers are grouped by geographical location. At the time of writing, there are no servers in Africa and South America. Maybe that will change soon.
This question is crucial because it speaks to your livelihood. We all want to make money online somehow.
Twitter had become an ecosystem for marketing and making money for professionals and ghostwriters. It is a for-profit machine that seemingly has perfected its model. Additionally, it allows people and brands to meet, clash and promote each other.
Mastodon’s biggest limitation is that it is a non-profit platform. No ads, nothing. Its growth depends on charity.
We could get into technicalities of how people can start making money, but that comes later when Instance admins figure out how to crack that problem. For now, we can play the waiting game.
If Mastodon monetizes its platform, it will likely end up like Twitter, making people see what its algorithm wants people to see. Meanwhile, we will have to settle for Mastodon Instances moving to become like WhatsApp groups for bundling like-minded people. In the future, chances are people will create toxic disputes and break up communities, just like what happened with Twitter and most human societies in the past.
Twitter beats Mastodon on prospects for brand development and creating a consistent audience, although this may change in the future.
One good example is Revue, Twitter’s newsletter editorial tool. It is one of the top user-friendly newsletter services for content creators. With Revue, you can easily import our users from Twitter. Twitter supports Substack, a rival tool, similarly.
As newsletter marketing makes a comeback, if you are a regular user or a content creator on the rise, now would be the worst time to leave Twitter. There is still a great deal of value at Twitter. Ignore the noise.
Verdict: If you want to make money, grow your audience and develop your brand, Mastodon might help in the future, but right now, expect little. Better to create an account, watch the hype and decide on an entry point.
No! Mastodon is not easy to use.
Even though the UI feels a lot like Twitter, it still gives you a complicated start. From finding Instances to looking for people to follow, Mastodon is still uncharted territory for most.
You will have to research which Instance to join. I will be very blunt with you; you are a product and a customer. Instance admins are heavily marketing their Instances to attract people because the numbers are good for them. You may likely hop from one to the next till you find what you like.
With all the hype, Instance admins are struggling to keep up. Most Instances are failing to keep up. So even if you were to try and make a move for Mastodon now, you would likely get the worst welcome as people flock to the famous Instances where you are more likely to get good engagement.
Twitter, on the other hand, is fun and all too familiar.
Along with its alleged toxicity, Twitter comes with the element of surprise. You can be there, scrolling around, then find life-changing content. I have discovered many things on Twitter that helped me in my career that I didn’t even know I needed.
Before you buy into the hype on toxicity, ask yourself, “Who is it toxic for and in what way?” Calling the platform toxic is a negative way of viewing its diversity. It was never about Twitter as a platform but about humanity.
People keep saying that Twitter is increasingly getting toxic, but that’s only partially true. People are getting more toxic and intolerant of different views. We are the problem, and you will find conflict wherever humans are.
Mastodon doesn’t guarantee freedom from ‘toxicity’ or abuse. It will exist until an Instance admin chooses to act. And even if he does, there can still be debate about what qualifies as a violation. The admin is God, and as long as you are on His server, He can kick you out. in other words, Elon Musk converted Twitter into one giant Mastodon Instance.
The way I see it, Instances will quickly become boring and predictable echo chambers where everything you receive is stale and predictable. The scandal on Twitter is good in a way. It reflects the state of the world. But Mastodon, with Instances, represents conservatism in its supposed liberalism.
Additionally, people are simply assuming that Twitter won’t have moderation. There was never any communication by the Twitter team on that.
Verdict: Only when Mastodon fixes its UI can you bet it will struggle to convince users to stay. So far, the stats reveal a spike in user sign-ups; people are still determining if these users will be consistent.
Kanye said, “No one man should have all that power.” But Elon does, and you have to deal with it or buy Twitter from him.
Despite his ‘questionable’ staff management tactics, Elon Musk is financially the most successful man on earth. He sits in a unique chair that no one before him in the tech world has sat on, from AI and Humanoid Robots, Space and Mars, Finance with PayPal, Tesla, and Social Media. He made a fortune out of making dreams thought impossible work.
The fact is, Elon has plans for a profit with Twitter, and that’s where your profit might be as well. Change creates uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Eventually, the hype will die, and we can assess the progress made.
Influencers are reacting to Elon, not because he is a failure, but because they fear his “no sacred cows” policy. As a regular user, filter this junk out; Twitter is in for new and exciting times.
How more democratic can a platform get if users choose which accounts should be restored?
Who exactly is pushing #RIPTwitter?
The idea that Twitter is dead is mostly clickbait. Twitter is very much alive and has recorded an all-time usage high which Elon Musk openly bragged about.
The idea that Twitter is dead is being pushed mainly through established influencers. Their interests and your interests as a regular user are entirely different. So take note of that. Twitter might lose market share, but that’s only natural, not a sign of death.
Marketers are clever, and they know what riles you up. Choose what works for you and think about your needs as an individual.
Is Mastodon secure and Private?
There are a lot of high-level conversations happening around that topic. We, as regular users, will wait for the experts to speak, but for now, I will leave you with this from the Mastodon community. Which, again, is testimony to how complicated Mastodon is.
“Mastodon is a largely volunteer-built platform undergoing growing pains, and some prominently used forks have had (and fixed) embarrassing vulnerabilities as of late. Though it’s been around since 2016, the new influx of users and new importance it has taken on will be a trial by force. We expect more bugs will be shaken from the tapestry before too long.” —
Bill Budington in Is Mastodon Private and Secure? Let’s Take a Look
Ultimately, it boils down to the question, “Is Mastodon worth learning.” Maybe it will grow and flop; at this point, it’s all a guessing game.
But Mastodon still has a long way to go before it can rival Twitter. Instances and Federations on Mastodon serve you the same way groups and Communities help you on WhatsApp, so there is that.
Frankly, you can leave Twitter anytime you like because of the hype, but from where I stand, Mastodon isn’t worth it.
TOP UNAFFILIATED RESOURCES YOU CAN USE
Using Mastodon is way too complicated to ever topple Twitter; the writer Jesus Diaz called Mastodon. “A great idea, in theory, a total pain in practice.”
A n00b’s guide to Mastodon is a 20-minute up-to-date resource on Medium by Jeremy Littau. The best you will find. It comes highly recommended by the Medium — Tech newsletter. It will give you everything you need, including the best use for Mastodon.
Is Mastodon Private and Secure? Let’s Take a Look by Bill Budington. Comprehensive article on Mastodon’s security and the safer alternatives you can choose.
Twitter vs. Mastodon: The Marketing Reality by Jennifer Torres. This is a powerful article on leveraging Mastodon for your marketing purposes.