How to migrate from Twitter to Mastodon

A mammoth reconstruction

Twitter is an important social networking tool for academics. As its future is unclear, some may want to migrate to a different social network offering familiar features and populated with other academics. Mastodon is an open-source alternative currently growing at a rapid pace that you may want to explore.

Step 1: Identify which instance you want to join

Mastodon is installed on many servers which are connected together in a network as part of the Fediverse. Your account will be on one of them (much like your email address is with a specific host). You can follow (and be followed by) people on other servers, and you can also check the “local feed” to discover things posted by people you do not know yet on your server. Since this is a useful serendipitous practice (a way to hear about people you didn’t know could be interesting), it is better to join a server that is in line with your goals.

For academics, we would suggest having a look at this list of academic and research Mastodon servers. You can also try to register on

Switch does not have a server yet, but I think they would be a great host for Swiss academics (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

If you already are a Twitter user, you may want to check which server your contacts are using before you choose your own. That may help you find relevant instances we are not aware of. To do this, use Debirdify. It will show you where your followers/followed are, as long as they added their mastodon identifier to their Twitter bio.

Step 2: Create an account

If you are still unsure about the server you want to join, don’t panic – just select one, you can always move to another later. Register on the server you selected, fill in your bio and avatar, and post an #introduction.

Add your mastodon handle (for example in your Twitter bio, personal site, and other places where people may be looking to find you.

Install a Mastodon app on your mobile device. Toot! is apparently great on iPhone, and Tusky is the best on Android (and also allows you to log in with multiple accounts).

Step 3: Follow interesting people

You can obviously first follow the people you found through Debirdify in step 1.

Later, just check the local timeline for your server (or the public timeline for any other) by going to yourserver/public/local (for example and follow interesting people.

Step 4: Start tooting!

Mastodon is similar to Twitter, with key differences:

  • You can adapt the level of privacy of anything you post : public, unlisted (not shown in timelines, potentially useful for successive posts in threads), followers only, or mentioned people only.
  • Content warning (CW) tags let you hide the contents of a post with a description. Use this liberally for spoilers, violence, NSFW, off-topic stuff, or just longer posts that may not interest everyone. Some (but not all) servers require political conflict related content to be CW-ed.
  • Hashtags should be used liberally. You can actually follow/subscribe to a hashtag!
  • You can select the language in which you post. I tend to forget, but I suppose it allows people to filter out languages they don’t understand.
  • Image description is highly encouraged (and might be mandatory on some servers).
  • Lists exist but you can only include people you are following.
  • You can reply, boost (retoot), favourite (like), or bookmark toots. The latter is great for useful content you may want to check again later.
  • You can also filter terms to add automatic content warnings for you or to hide them completely from your feed.
  • There is an edit button! Aren’t you glad you moved?
  • There is no integrated gif catalogue. Memes must be hand-crafted. This site has no future. </s>
  • No quote-retweet either, a choice made to limit hostility on the platform.

Step 5: Tip your admins

Mastodon servers have costs, but are not supported by advertisement. If you enjoy your time there, consider checking whether they accept donations and pitching in.

Illustration: Mastodon, CC By Thomas Quine

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