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How to Find Your Friends on Mastodon

Mastodon has two more feeds that display

by George Mensah
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Mastodon is the newest social network sensation, but it can be a lonely place until you find your people. Don’t worry: we’ve got you covered when you join this fantastic Twitter alternative.

Twitter is collapsing, and Mastodon is a brave new decentralized world. But social media isn’t very social if you don’t know who to follow.

Mastodon, unlike Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, does not have algorithmic timelines or promoted posts. That means you’ll only see posts made or boosted by people you follow in your Home timeline. Mastodon is great for privacy and giving you control over your experience, but unlike other platforms, it will not direct you to trends or other users.

So it’s up to you to find your Mastodon friends. To begin, follow these steps.

Watch for Signs

People are eager to recreate their social media experience on other platforms following the upheaval at Twitter. Mastodon usernames and links have recently appeared in Twitter bios and Tweets. Examine your friends’ profiles to see if any are transitioning. Linktree links in posts may redirect to Mastodon profiles. Look at people’s homepages as well—yes, they still exist. It’s possible that people will share their new Masto homes there.

Some communities have compiled lists of people to follow as more people have tried Mastodon. Lists have ranged from journalists to 18th-century literary scholars. Look around if you’re a member of a Twitter community—there could be a similar effort going on. If there isn’t one already, you could help start one.

Third-party tools are also available to assist you in finding your Twitter friends on Mastodon. I have used none of the current tools, and the ones that were available previously didn’t work very well. Some of them require access to your Mastodon and/or Twitter accounts, so choose wisely.

Use the Search Box

I intentionally limited mastodon search compared to other social media platforms. Someone purposefully designed mastodon to make targeted harassment and advertising difficult. However, this does not negate the utility of search. You can use the built-in search box to look for hashtags and other users.

However, unless you know the correct usernames to look up, you may not locate your friends.

The Local and Federated Timelines

Mastodon has two more feeds that display what other people are posting. The first of these is the Local feed. This displays all posts made by people on the same server as you. Consider it similar to spying on your neighbors.

The Federated feed is the second. This displays all posts made by all users on all servers that are connected to you. It’s a little complicated how different servers and users federate with each other, but it’s unnecessary to fully comprehend it. Consider this the Mastodon firehose of content. For more information, see our article on how to choose a Mastodon server.

Both feeds can be overwhelming but they provide a window into the larger world of Mastodon and can help you find new people to follow.

Share Your Interests

An introduction to Mastodon is a good first post. Simply introduce yourself, list your hobbies and interests with hashtags, and end with #introductions. Click on the hashtag links. You’ll see other people’s posts with the same tags as you, and you might even come across a community.

You can also use the web app’s search bar to look up hashtags. This is a great way to find people who are talking about your interests, and because they are using hashtags they want their posts to be found.

Mastodon’s latest version allows you to follow hashtags so that posts with that tag appear in your feed. Older versions allow you to pin search results, which does the same thing. This allows you to see the conversations taking place around your interests.

Mastodon has several community hashtags where people can share various posts on the same topic. #mosstodon contains images of moss, while #TokyoCameraClub contains images of Japan’s capital city.

Explore

In terms of hashtags, the #Explore pane is intended to help you discover new people and trends while respecting your privacy. Posts display popular individual public posts, Hashtags display a larger slice of trending hashtags (again, only hashtags), News displays frequently shared links, and For You displays accounts that may interest you.

This is a simple way to stay up to date on what’s going on on Mastodon and find accounts that are already connected to you, without mining your personal data or engaging in any pay-for-play promotion. The release notes contain additional information about the #Explore feed.

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While #Explore will assist you in finding people, you can also prevent your posts and account from being found if you so desire. You can change the visibility of individual posts and require followers to be approved. You can also disable the discoverability options described above and hide some of these elements from your interface.

Find Your Friends

A common complaint I hear from new Mastodon users is that their feeds are empty. You can quickly find new and old friends to follow and connect with established communities—or start your own—with a little effort.

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