Twitter is crumbling and Mastodon is a brave new decentralized world. But social media isn’t very social if you don’t know who to follow.
Unlike Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Mastodon doesn’t have algorithmic schedules or promoted posts. This means you’ll only see posts created or boosted by people you follow on your Home timeline. It’s great for privacy and for giving you control over your experience, but Mastodon doesn’t redirect you to trends or other users like other platforms do.
That means it’s up to you to find your friends on Mastodon. Follow these steps to get started.
Watch out for signs
With the disruption to Twitter, people are striving to replicate their social media experience on other platforms. I’ve been noticing Mastodon usernames and links in Twitter bios and tweets for the past few days. Check out your friends’ profiles and see if any make the jump. Posts with Linktree links may redirect to Mastodon profiles. Also look at people’s websites – yes, they still exist. People could share their new masto houses there.
This Twitter profile contains a link to a Mastodon page. (Source: Twitter/Max Eddy)
As more and more people have decided to try Mastodon, some communities have compiled lists of people to follow. I’ve seen lists ranging from journalists to 18th-century literary scholars. If you’re part of a Twitter community, take a look around – there may be a similar effort underway. If there isn’t one, you could help start one.
There are also third-party tools designed to help you find your Twitter friends on Mastodon. I haven’t tried any of these current tools, and the ones that were available in the past didn’t work as well. Some of them require access to your Mastodon and/or Twitter accounts, so be careful which ones you use.
Use the search box
Searching on Mastodon is very limited compared to other social media platforms, and that’s by design. Mastodon is intentionally structured to make targeted harassment and advertising very difficult. But that doesn’t mean search isn’t useful. The built-in search box allows you to search for hashtags as well as other users.
However, you may not find your friends unless you know the right usernames to look up.
The search box in the Mastodon web app can search for hashtags and usernames. (Image credit: Mastodon)
The local and federated timelines
Mastodon has two additional feeds that show what other people are posting. The first is the local feed. This shows all posts made by people on the same server as you. Imagine seeing what your neighbors are up to.
The second is the Federated feed. This shows all posts made by all users on all servers connecting to you in some way. How different servers and users federate with each other is a bit complicated, but it’s not necessary to fully understand it. Think of it like the content fire department on Mastodon. For more information on this, see our article on choosing a Mastodon server.
Both feeds can feel overwhelming at times, but they are windows into the wider world of Mastodon that can highlight new people to follow.
Share your interests
A good first contribution to Mastodon is an introduction. Just tell a little bit about yourself, list your hobbies and interests with hashtags and add #ideas at the end. Go ahead and click on the links that appear on these hashtags. You’ll see other posts from people tagging the same topics, and you might stumble upon a community.
Writing a post to introduce yourself and hashtagging your interests can help you connect with other users. (Image credit: Mastodon/Max Eddy)
You can also search for hashtags using the search bar in the web app. This is a great way to find people who are talking about your interests and you can be sure that their posts will be found because they use hashtags.
The latest version of Mastodon allows you to follow hashtags so that posts with that tag appear in your feed. In older versions, you can pin search results, which effectively does the same thing. This way you can see the conversations that are happening around your interests.
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Mastodon has a set of community hashtags where people share different posts on the same topic. #mosstodon has pictures of moss and #TokyoCameraClub has photos of Japan’s capital.
Speaking of hashtags, the #Explore section is designed to help you find new people and trends while respecting your privacy. Posts shows popular individual public posts, Hashtags shows a wider selection of trending hashtags (again, just hashtags), News shows links that are shared frequently, and For You shows accounts that might be relevant to you.
This is an easy way to get in touch with what’s happening on Mastodon and find accounts that are already connected to you, but without digging through your personal information or pay-for-play promotions. You can read a bit more about the #Explore feed in the release notes.
The #Explore tab contains trending posts and hashtags, as well as other users to follow. (Image credit: Mastodon)
While #Explore helps you find people, you can also prevent your posts and account from being found if you choose. You can toggle visibility of individual posts and require you to approve followers. You can also opt out of the discoverability options described above and hide some of these elements from your user interface.
find your friends
A common complaint I hear from new Mastodon users is that there is nothing in their feeds. With a little work, you can quickly find new and old friends to follow and connect with established communities—or start your own.
For more information on getting to know Mastodon, check out our getting started guide.
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