I Can’t Believe It’s Not Twitter!
Bluesky and Mastodon are both “Twitter alternatives.” Which one should you use?
In the months since Elon Musk took over Twitter, I — like everyone else — have been on the lookout for a Twitter replacement. Why I would do this to myself, I don’t know; my experience with the original Twitter was not a good one. Death threats, rape threats, stalkers, main-character incidents; you name a way Twitter can make someone’s life worse, and I experienced it, probably more than once.
Looking for a “new Twitter,” under the circumstances, feels like a gunshot victim looking for a “new bullet.” Nonetheless, here I am, signed up to a half-dozen apps and websites I hardly use. After months of scrambling, only two sites seem poised to take the “new Twitter” crown: Mastodon, the longest-standing Twitter alternative, and Bluesky, still in beta, which blew up in the past month.
I post on both Mastodon and Bluesky, and in my experience, both are successful for good reason. They’re just successful for very different reasons, and will likely appeal to very different sets of people. Here, before you start one more account you’re never going to check in on, I will attempt to help you figure out which sort of person you are.
Mastodon: Earnest, Wholesome, Boring
Mastodon first arose in 2016 as an attempt to fix Twitter’s almost total lack of content moderation. Ever since 2016, people have been threatening to emigrate to Mastodon whenever Twitter gets too toxic. Until Musk’s takeover, those threats were rarely carried through.
What makes Mastodon promising is its federated structure — you can sign up for any number of “instances,” each with their own content moderation guidelines. All of Mastodon will be viewable, more or less, no matter which instance you choose. The “or less” part comes down to blocking. You’ll have the option to block individual people, as you do on Twitter, but your moderator might also block some instances wholesale — for example, if you’re on a left-leaning instance, which I initially was, your moderator’s job will be to block Nazi instances and spare you the headache.