Mastodon is not just a Twitter replacement or alternative. It's a tool built on a completely different decentralized architecture (the Fediverse), with a somewhat familiar interface, that presents us with the opportunity to completely rethink our relationship with social media and online content. And while these differences can make it feel foreign for a few days, once you get up to speed the user experience isn't much different than using Twitter or Tweetdeck. It's quite nice actually.
This captures my personal experience exactly. I gingerly moved through the first three stages in about three days and on the fourth I found myself the admin of social.blogsofwar.com. It can't be said enough that Mastadon is not Twitter, and that can be frustrating at times, but approach it with an open mind and you might find something unexpected. Look beyond the day to day user experience and there is the promise of something more. If this massive migratory experiment works, and the model and communities can scale, we might see Mastodon and the Fediverse fulfill that promise:
...hopefully users will invest some time learning something new (and sometimes imperfect) than to spend another decade complaining how bad commercial social media is.
If Mastodon thrives, many will hail it as a new European tech player.
But the platform holds a more valuable promise — the establishment of a more democratic social network that can be used by anybody, everywhere in the world, without being manipulated by big money, the whims of billionaires or repressive governments. - Michael Meyer-Resende
So, if you are willing to devote a very small amount of time to learning something new, this short official overview is a great place to start:
Tech journalist Ryan Kawailani Ozawa's (@firstname.lastname@example.org) 15 minute introduction goes into a lot more detail and does an excellent job of explaining some of the more complex topics (federation).
Next, jump into the excellent How to Mastodon playlist by @email@example.com. This multi-part series walks you through setting up your account, configuring the advanced web interface (which works just like TweetDeck), and using your account as well as performing some of the more advanced actions like moving your account to another server, verifying your identity (the Mastodon way), and more.
If you've made it this far I have a huge roundup of Mastodon and Fediverse links for you on the resources page. Check it out. And don't forget to follow me @firstname.lastname@example.org once you're up and running.