How to talk to your relatives about Mastodon

Family gettogethers offer us a space to have difficult conversations with loved ones.

This year, the big question on everyone’s minds is “what is Mastodon?”.

Here’s a quick explanation that’ll make sense to your great-aunt.

This is Twitter. Lots of people use it to talk to one another! It’s one big website, and the people who run it spend a lot of money to keep it going. Twitter uses advertising to pay the bills.

A single circle containing the Twitter logo, surrounded by lots of stick figures

Lately a few things have gone wrong with Twitter — mass firings, ritual human sacrifice, etc.

Some people have moved to a different social network that’s pretty different than the ones you’re used to.

This is Mastodon. Instead of one big website, it’s made up of lots of smaller websites, connected through a bunch of magic internet pipes.

A bunch of purple circles with a Mastodon logo inside. All the circles are connected together with purple pipes. Each circle has one or more stick figures standing around it.

Those magic internet pipes allow each Mastodon website to know what people are saying on all the other Mastodon websites.

Nobody owns Mastodon. Each website is run independently of the others, but they all mostly get along.

Most Mastodon websites rely on donations to pay the bills. That way, no single person or entity owns Mastodon.

There are a few Mastodon websites that have cut themselves off from the Mastodon network.

Two purple circles, not connected to one another, both containing a Mastodon logo. Each circle is ringed with stick figures in red baseball caps

We do not speak of them.

The biggest challenge when starting out with Mastodon is finding a website to join.

If you want to sign up to Twitter, you just type in its website address

Web browser address bar with written inside

For Mastodon, though, there isn’t a single website. There are many different websites, and you have to choose a specific one to join.

Web browser address bar with written inside for K-pop fans
Web browser address bar with written inside for people from Bologna, Italy
Web browser address bar with written inside for LGBT people in tech
Web browser address bar with written inside a catch-all Mastodon website

These are just a few — there are thousands of Mastodon websites to choose from.

Once you’ve chosen a website to join, you can follow people from different Mastodon websites.

Mastodon gives you access to millions of peoples’ thoughts, just like Twitter.


A snapshot of what Mastodon looks like when visiting


That's it!

Technically Mastodon websites are now called “Mastodon servers”, but your great-aunt won’t care.

Find a Mastodon server to join

I’m on Mastodon

© Matt Brown 2022 — no rights reserved