Mastodon is a social network that works differently than other social networks. His sudden rise in popularity – thanks to the drama of Twitter – has made people take notice of the trappings that can make social media so toxic. What makes Mastodon different?
Longtime social media users may remember times when algorithms didn’t dominate the world. Each timeline and channel was in simple chronological order. When one of your friends posted something, you saw it. The food became tastier, the air became sweeter – okay, I got carried away.
Social media doesn’t work like that anymore, by no means. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are dominated by algorithms with one goal in mind – to keep you on the site/app. They use your content to interest others. You are a product.
When you “like” a post on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter, it is shown to other users. The social network ensures that everyone knows what you liked. The “Like” button is not just “well done!” for the user, it’s a megaphone that tells everyone “HEY I LOVE THIS!!” Now other people see what they didn’t subscribe to, and it’s used to keep users interested.
Mastodon doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter style algorithms that manipulate what you view. When you “like” a post, that’s literally all it does – tell the user that you like it. The post does not end up in your friends’ feeds, and vice versa. Your feed only contains content from the accounts you follow. No ads, no videos, just what you subscribe to.
You are in control
Another way Mastodon doesn’t use you as a product is in how search works. On most social networks, you can simply search for simple text like “Michigan” and you’ll find any post or profile containing that text. It doesn’t work on mastodon.
The Mastodon search only works with hashtags, and that’s for a good reason. This allows users to decide if they want their posts to be found. This means you can say “#Michigan” if you want people to find the post in a search, or just leave “Michigan” if you don’t.
Also, you cannot quote posts on Mastodon. This is when you re-share a post and add your own comment. It’s popular on Twitter, you can do the same on Facebook and other social networks. Quote Tweets provoke venomous insults to people and are usually not very helpful. To do this on Mastodon, you must first take a screenshot and then share it with your own two cents.
No fake internet hotspots
Another thing that social networks do is gamify experiences with popularity points. Likes, shares, retweets, views, followers, etc. The numbers go up and you feel good; the numbers go down and make you feel bad.
Many Mastodon servers don’t even show the number of likes and retweets on posts on the timeline. This means that when you see a post, you don’t want to interact with it because of its popularity. This contributes to an atmosphere that is not as obsessed with making the content “viral”. Your post with 1000 likes can be easily scrolled like any other post.
This also plays a role in the content warning/spoiler. Mastodon allows you to hide the content of your message unless someone clicks on it. This is almost the opposite of the goal of most social media, which is to get as much engagement as possible for a post. Mastodon literally lets you hide people’s eyes from your posts.
Here, Here, all aboard
You can understand why some people feel very disorientated in a mastodon. The usual social media traps don’t really exist, and it’s a strange feeling. You kind of have to rewire your brain and think about social media differently.
Mastodon is very similar to social networks, which is a good thing. Social media used to be about community, connecting with friends and sharing what’s going on in your life. Algorithms and the constant need for growth have changed the situation.
If you’re interested in checking out Mastodon, we’ve got a list of 10 fun accounts to get you started. It may just be the social media cure you’ve been looking for.