You probably have heard of the Mastodon social Media Platform in the last couple of weeks, following the Elon Musk take over Twitter and the growing discontent, and massive migration, of thousands of its users.
I got curious about the Mastodon after seeing that some of the people I follow on Twitter had opened Mastodon accounts. They reported a positive experience, especially being able to post adult content (which has been a huge plus for Twitter users so far) without censorship or penalties.
Being the novelty-driven guy I am, I started researching Mastodon. I quickly found out that, unlike most mainstream social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), Mastodon is a “decentralized” platform. This means that no single company or entity owns the Mastodon; instead, it’s composed of many “servers” or “instances” (basically a bunch of geeks running “Mastodon independent groups” out of their basement) that interconnect with each other to form the platform as a whole. Therefore, if you want join Mastodon, you are forced to choose one of these “instances” and abide by their respective rules. If you wish to learn more about how it works, here are a couple of links that will answer a lot of your questions:
Mastodon: How Does the Open Source Social Network Work? (CNET.com)
- Complete guide to Mastodon for beginners (by eGPlearning on YouTube)
After much reading and YouTube binging, my initial reaction was that the whole thing seemed too complex and, quite frankly, too “nerdy” to even bother. However, after I saw this video, where Hussain Gandhi explains what Mastodon is and gives a step-by-step guide to joining in, I decided to give it a go.
First, I had to find an “instance” to join. I started by trying a couple of the instances that my Twitter friends were using. No luck! You see, instance owners can put a cap on their membership count; therefore, closing the chance for new applicants to join. So, I had to do more research on how to find a good instance to join. After a bit of more reading, I decided to join the largest Canadian Mastodon instance: mstdn.ca. They seemed to have a good number of members, there was no waiting period to join (some instances don’t close their membership but they put you on a waiting list), and their rules and regulations seemed pretty standard.
I conducted my onboarding process on my laptop browser, and it went pretty smoothly. Once I got in, it took me a good half hour of poking around the settings and interface for me to feel comfortable and thinking I knew what I was doing. I was ready to jump on the phone app for faster and more convenient use… Not so fast! I quickly found out that the official Mastodon app on iOS pretty much sucks the big one: it’s clunky and fairly limiting. So… Yup, you guessed it: MORE RESEARCH!
After another round of online reading and YouTube videos, I finally decided that the Toot! App was the one that seemed the best suited for my needs and likes. So, off I went with it: I “tooted” a couple of introductory posts and started following some people; all with accounts in different Mastodon instances than mine. I was happy to see 2 of the people I followed reciprocated. So far so good… Well, maybe.
I soon found out that Mastodon had a few flaws. I must admit that I don’t know if these issues are global to the platform, or if they are unique to mstdn.ca (the instance I had joined). At any rate, among the most irritating issues I found are:
- The feed can be confusing and bloated. It is sub-divided into 3 simultaneous timeline feeds, which you can toggle as you please:
– Home: Shows your own posts and posts from people you follow (both from your own instance and other instances)
– Local: Shows posts from all the members of the instance you belong to (Why?? I’m not interested, thanks!)
– Federated: Shows posts from all the Mastodon members followed by the members in your instance – talk about information overload!! Again, no thanks!
- SLOW… I often found myself waiting for the feed ro refresh itself for nearly 15 to 20 seconds at a time. Maybe because of the amount of information that it’s trying to pull from all the useless timeline feeds?
- It’s hard to find people you want to follow; in most cases, you need to have the exact handle for that person. Even then, sometimes the search engine in your instance won’t find the person you’re seeking.
- Limited “Home” feed: I could only see the most recent posts from the people I was following (items posted in the last 24 hours). To see older posts from people I was following, I had to visit their profile in their own instance, which is not too bad, except for the fact that I couldn’t interact or comment on their posts if because I was visiting their instance without being a member.
Past these issues, I thought it would just take some getting used to and decided to give it a fair chance. Well, that plan got cut short very, very quickly…
Last night I decided to give the NSFW feature a try and posted a nude picture of myself wishing my followers a good night. I was careful to use the NSFW flagging tool on Toot! to avoid any issues. I tested my post and everything looked fine…. Yeah, right!
This morning I opened Toot! on my phone just to find out I couldn’t login into mstdn.ca – I thought the server was just having issues and left it at that. Later, I got a nice surprise on my inbox: an email from mstdn.ca informing me that my account was suspended due to server rules violation because of the picture I posted without marking it as NSFW… Ahem, I BEG YOUR PARDON!!??
At the bottom of the email, I found a button to “appeal” my case. I clicked on in and filled in the form to explain that I had marked my post accordingly. Never heard back from them. So, at this point I don’t know what I have done wrong or if it was an issue with the Toot! app not communicating correctly with mstdn.ca, or if I simply offended some moderator who decided I wasn’t worthy of a precious and coveted membership at mstdn.ca.
Needless to say, this has been a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Surely, I could invest some more time and find another Mastodon instance to join and see if I can get a better mobile app. However, I don’t think social media should be this cumbersome or frustrating. Talk about sucking the joy out of the simple action of “taking a selfie and posting it”. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be using Mastodon in the near future.
If you’re so inclined, you can follow me on several other, far more user-friendly, social media platforms – just beware, I do publish adult content where allowed. Find my links on my Linktree.