I know that Mastodon can be a little confusing at first. But don't worry, it's great and not that complicated to use! I'm sure you'll catch up in no time.
That being said, it doesn't dispense regular users like me to give you some tips. So here we go!
You can adjust the audience of your message by clicking on the second icon below the compose box.
There is four privacy levels on Mastodon:
1. Public: everyone can see your message
2. Unlisted: everyone can see your message but it won't appear in the public timelines
3. Followers-only: only your logged-in followers and the mentioned users will be able to see that
4. Direct: only the mentioned users will see that
Privacy levels are one of the most powerful feature of Mastodon.
On Mastodon, you can add a "content warning" to your posts.
Content warnings are a way to tell people what your message is about. When used, your message will be hidden by default and other people will have to click on a button to unhide it. It is especially useful to warn people about content that can trigger an anxiety or post-traumatic crisis, but can also be used to hide spoilers, etc.
To add a content warning, just click on the CW button bellow the compose box.
Mastodon interface is made of columns.
There is always at least two of them: the composition column (on the left) and the visualization column (on the right). The first one contains the compose box and various menus. The second one is a bit special and is used to display all kinds of things (profiles, toots, other columns). When you click on link, it's where the content is displayed.
You can add additional columns between this two if you want (we'll talk about that later if you don't mind).
The local timeline and the federated timeline are what we call the public timelines.
The local timeline list all the public posts made by users of your local Mastodon instance.
The federated timeline is doing the same thing but, instead of only displaying toots made on your instance, it displays toots from all the known Fediverse! Yeah, it's pretty huge. That's why on the biggest instances, this timeline is moving really fast.
Did you see the little symbol at the top right of most column's header? It's actually the column menu!
From it, you can set various things and pin/unpin the column (I told you we were going to talk about that at some point). The columns don't all have the same options, so feel free to take a look by yourself!
You can configure a variety of things from the settings panel: your default language, Mastodon's theme (because yes, there are various themes!) and also your display name and avatar.
Most of the options here are self explanatory, so you shouldn't have too much trouble making Mastodon behave just the way you want :).
Before I leave you, I thought it would be better to give you some more resources.
Here is the "What is Mastodon?" official video. It explains in the simple way some of the key concepts behind Mastodon. Also, it has cute animations (and that's rad).
Two other really good Mastodon tutorials.
"Toot How-To: Intro to Mastodon" by @GinnyMcQueen.
@Sylvhem Hi, I just created my mastodon Account and found your tutorial. It was a great help to get started . Many thanks :)
@mickey83 Hi! I'm glad you found it useful! I hope you'll enjoy your stay on Mastodon :).
@Sylvhem Is there a way to change your settings so that CW stuff is always shown rather than hidden by default?
@RobotFencer There isn't for now.
@Blockchic You're welcome :).
@Sylvhem From a technical standpoint it's just clearly better than "the other guys".
@Sylvhem Hi! I prefer to have one account but now I have several on different instances. Is there an easy way to follow the activity on another instance or should you just get an account there?
@torinemard There is no way to follow all the activity on a different instance, but you can follow people from a different instance and you'll see all their toots.
@Sylvhem Thanks for all the detailed info. Are you just a fan or a developer working on it?
@kerriepants Just a fan ^^. Although I made some contributions to the project (French translation, white theme…).
Une instance se voulant accueillante pour les personnes queers, féministes et anarchistes ainsi que pour leurs sympathisant·e·s. Nous sommes principalement francophones, mais vous êtes les bienvenu·e·s quelle que soit votre langue.
A welcoming instance for queer, feminist and anarchist people as well as their sympathizers. We are mainly French-speaking people, but you are welcome whatever your language might be.