Why do people leave Mastodon? Why do they stay?

Your list of items are what I recognize too, and even what I appreciate myself. (And I, due to work, was a pretty hardcore Twitter user for years. Much less so now, and maybe not at all in the not-distant future, hopefully.)

Speaking to nobody in particular… I think these two items I quoted are especially noteworthy (though not only) because they speak to a larger distinction between platforms that we should not overlook. We have to be careful not to make 1:1 comparisons of Mastodon with centralized platforms, even Twitter, which is the most similar in nature.

In other words, Mastodon should not want to try and compete for the attention of people who need platforms to campaign and debate. Twitter has changed from what it used to be, and those early adopters will likely find their way to Mastodon, or something other. But for the vast majority of late Twitter arrivals, they are there because they want to vent about all the evils in the world – and more power to them. But let Twitter absorb all that energy. Mastodon should actively cultivate a more laid-back vibe, and that will need to be done with attention to both human moderation and built-in features.

I have to strongly disagree with this sentiment (which I’ve seen promoted by several other people before, of course.)

I don’t see political talk, venting included, as “bad vibes” - I see it as a necessary part of people taking responsibility for their own lives, their communities, and this world we all share.
For me personally this is strongly linked with why I want to use a federates, community-operated, open social network, and why I go through the trouble of running an instance in my country’s dominant language rather than just being a user on some nice English-centric instance like I was at first - I want a place to talk politics more freely, knowing the owners of the platform aren’t collaborating with agencies like the NSA to spy on everyone’s political talk.

I’m fine with people wanting to escape the evils of the world and the turbulent atmosphere of the centralized social networks, and I do often CW my political toots when I think they can be disturbing, but if Mastodon as a platform took an anti-politics stance like you suggest, it would be betraying me and the many users like me (whose existence is clearly evidenced by the thousands of people who chose to sign up at instances like anticapitalist.party, soc.ialis.me, marxist.party, animalliberation.party, etc.)


I agree with you. My words were poorly chosen. I didn’t mean to say that being passionate about politics, climate change, elephant hunting or whatever is bad, I simply meant that Twitter has been consumed for that purposes in recent years and it serves that purpose well, and in negative ways. Fake news. Political harassment. Russian bot armies…

If Mastodon just wants to be another Twitter, then what’s the point of ever leaving Twitter? I’m pretty sure people are here because Mastodon is not Twitter, they want something different.

Or put it this way, if Don Trump and all his GOP alternative pundits started flooding Mastodon timelines, do you think they would respect NSFW and CW? Doubtful. I already see disregard for those features now, and the flood hasn’t even come yet. But that’s where things will go, easily, if Mastodon doesn’t keep a distinction between the platforms and limits of what they serve.

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Okay, I think I understand you better now. Sorry if I overreacted, I’ve encountered a sentiment of “keep politics out of Mastodon” and jumped to the conclusion that was what you were trying to get at.

I definitely want Mastodon to stay unwelcoming to big politicians and celebrities as well as brands, and never become a platform dominated by advertising and campaigning. And I agree that those things being pretty much absent on Mastodon so far is a reason people stay. :slight_smile:


Mine are all directly from conversations I’ve had with real people when I asked them why they left. Nothing is speculation.


To be fair, on Mastodon I’m in the top whatever % of prolific users, whereas on Twitter I have <60 followers and most of them are not active users. So there’s less reason for me to get targeted there. I also don’t talk to people on Free Speech Communities while on Twitter, while on Mastodon I regularly engage with those people in debate and discussion.


That makes sense. I’m highly avoidant of discussion with people if I think they’re likely to write me off as being “against free speech” if I don’t prioritize it at the same level or the same way they do, because information spreads and I think those discussions are at the edges of groups that insincerely claim interest in ‘free speech’ to mask their interest in promoting hate speech – but I’m paranoid, and extremely so.

The people I’ve known who were harassed on Twitter usually had a Twitter for a while, became a ‘known quantity’ in some minor fashion, and then promptly had packs of hyenas responding/attacking their Twitter with garden-variety threats, demands, etc., as well as the more advanced asstrolls who wanted to sealion away constantly. I’ve seen it play out a number of times for others on there that I wasn’t personally connected to, as well.

I think most harassed people who think they have no recourse will simply fall silent and go elsewhere, in general, and so it’s easy for admins/mods of any given social media setup to assume the problem is ‘complainers’ (i.e., victims).

As for Mastodon – I don’t regularly engage those people in debate (I often don’t feel the need to take the risk, as I see it, that discussion with them will connect me more closely with some level of organized harassers versus the slim chance that they will be willing to hear arguments dispassionately concerning a topic they are passionate about).

But I do talk about the topic, and the visibility is a risk I take specifically because I have had good experiences on Masto:

  • with people who start becoming overzealous/edging into abusive terminology getting responses from ‘bystanders’ who weren’t part of the conversation previously
  • with people who discuss things and are willing to accept that perhaps they’re wrong or simply see certain things differently

The former is rare, IME, on Twitter. The latter is, from those outside people I already consider trusted to some degree, something I think I’ve seen one or two times ever.

I fully understand I don’t really use social media the way ‘most people’ use it, but I suspect these phenomena are relevant to others as well in making these choices, albeit less consciously.

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Almost everyone I know who spent some time on Mastodon and then left lost interest because they felt like “no one was there.” I.e. More of their contacts’ activity is on Twitter and they have no interest in starting over. Some have verified accounts which is an idea that isn’t really possible to replicate on a federated network. Lots of people I know are scared off by the idea of federation, because it seems complicated and they don’t understand it.

I stayed because:

  • I like the concept of an open source social network that can position development around what users actually want.
  • I like the idea of controlling my own data and helping my friends safeguard their data by running an instance myself.
  • I really like the post exposure level features, as opposed to always having either a totally public or totally locked account.
  • On my small instance the federated timeline is nice to browse and seems like a good way to discover new people.
  • A few harassment incidents/unwanted attention obliged me to lock my account on Twitter, which means I can no longer use Twitter to talk with anyone I don’t already know. I can still meet new people on Mastodon.
  • Twitter is high-stress - hard to skim over stressful topics or save them until I’m ready for them. On Mastodon the CW feature helps with that.
  • The Mastodon design fosters what I want - a small community feeling combined with the ability to connect to the wider world.

Some thoughts on why I’m shuttering my instance and leaving Mastodon, in no particular order:

  • In a federated system like Mastodon where each instance needs some reason to exist, an instance admin needs a goal other than “I want to see how this Mastodon thing works.” I set up my server purely to screw around and try things out, and now I’m responsible for setting the tone for 400+ users who’ve set up accounts on my instance. With no objective for setting up Mastodon other than to set it up, I’ve wound up with a character-less instance that doesn’t bring anything notable or unique to the fediverse.

  • I have to use Twitter for work (I’m an editor at Ars Technica), so abandoning twitter for mastodon (or anything else, really) isn’t realistic. And Twitter is already so exhausting that forcing myself to pay attention to multiple social services is also unrealistic. I’m finding there simply isn’t room for >1 social networking tool in my life because 1 is exhausting enough already. (No, I don’t have a Facebook account, or a LinkedIn account, or any other social networking besides Twitter and Mastodon.)

  • Speaking personally, I find Mastodon offers no compelling features over Twitter. That doesn’t mean Mastodon doesn’t offer features others might find compelling! Just that for me, there’s nothing here that I need or want. (And I’m particularly turned off by the 500-character max toot length—I know this is holy war territory, but a 140-ish character max just flat-out makes for a better social network experience, IMO.)

The second and third bullets are just personal gripes; the main point is in the first bullet. I’m not particularly interested in spending the time necessary to develop a community, and rather than allowing one to develop organically—something I’m not really sure is possible without an admin’s constant intervention, at least during the initial growth phase—I’d rather reclaim the RAM Mastodon is using on the web server and use it for other things.


Personally, I’m staying because I’ve found a new community here that I’ve connected profoundly with.

One could of course argue that I am staying because I am collecting a paycheck, but I have never in my life been able to keep a job which I did not love or believe in somehow (this is a story for another time).

Every time I got back to twitter, I just feel overwhelmed, alone, and invisible. Here I know that if I write a public post it can connect with someone I do not know, without it being boosted or replied to by one of their friends. And I think that is part of the magic.

Then for me there’s also this old connection with StatusNet, which is just making me all giddy inside, but it is also allowing me to reconnect with old friends from there who are either rediscovering GNU Social through mastodon, or whom have stayed “true” through the years with older implementations, like quitter etc.

It is incredibly nice to be back in touch with the Open Source community, even though they come with some baggage, which I guess I am fairly adapted to handling as I’ve been here before.


This is a valid point, and I can especially appreciate the near inherent necessity as an editor of Ars, or any other rag. As someone who works in the field of “content strategy”, Twitter is the de facto place you have to rub elbows. Just something like conference promotion can’t be done without at least one of the main centralized platforms.

That said, I have 2 Twitter accounts. A brand identity and my perso. I’ve been running loud and rogue on my perso account about the injustices of the world for about a year now and I’m sure people would be glad to see that one shut up. :wink: So, I’ve decided to kill my personal account and just keep doing the biz grind on the anonymous/brand account, which is rather focused and low impact.

Contrarily, my personal interests have been better served here in Mastodon, where I’m learning a lot about decentralization, linux, etc. For me this is an exciting new place, and I’m having much better conversations with people in Masto — more cerebral — than I ever had on Twitter. (Yes, I like the 500 char extension.)

I’m auditing my online existence and tech use, gradually cleaning up my footprint. Migrating for me also means migrating to new hardware, open source substitutions for software, etc. But, I do realize I will have to keep a “professional” foot in the centralized world, just like I’ll have to keep using my MBP, because that’s where I have to make a living, for now.

As I see it, the savvy person will play the long game; gradually stop supporting the exploiting monopolies. Personal identities are a good starting point for that.


6 posts were split to a new topic: Email to inactive users

A post was split to a new topic: Do we know how many Unique accounts / Bots are in the mastoverse?

@Siphonay if you’re out there, hey-- i am not leaving, but the instance i joined,
seems to be down. if i have to, i will prob join an animal rts. instance rather than give up on this place. i use a bunch of different paltforms/sites: instagram, twitter, mastodon, proboards, disqus (orig. for a.v.club as it was forced on us), imzy, voat, reddit, amirite, just to name the ones i can remember, and a super fake facebook profile-- hope this weird data is useful :crazy_face:

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6 posts were split to a new topic: When somebody leaves Mastodon, toots should be deleted only in special cases