I was on Twitter for over 13(!) years. It was my longest-running social media account, and was something I used fairly regularly during that time. I tweeted over 17,000 tweets during my time there, and as much as I dislike what it has become, it still represents a sizeable portion of my online identity during that time.
Through Twitter, I made a lot of friends, and as I found myself getting deeper in the WordPress community, I started finding opportunities. It helped jump-start my Web Development career, and was also a key component in ensuring that I found a new job in less than two weeks, when I unexpectedly found myself in-need of a job just last year. I had found myself in a relatively friendly little corner of Twitter, nothing like the hellscape many people talk about online (although I definitely wasn't immune, either!)
To put it simply, Twitter was very important to me, and migrating to the fediverse was daunting, and scary. But I believe in FOSS, the open web, and Twitter is decidedly not a part of that. As such, I believed this is a worthwhile endeavor, no matter how difficult it would prove to be.
It goes without saying that Twitter sure as hell isn't going to make this easy for you to do, but it's possible - and you can do it.
I do believe there is a proper way to make this transition.
- Capture as many of your current followers who have already moved over
- Notify everyone on Twitter that you're moving over
- Temporarily crosspost content both on Mastodon and Twitter
- Ensure that others who move after you can find you easily
- Export your Twitter data
- Delete your twitter history
Let's get into the details on how I made the move.
Update Twitter Your Profile, Pinned Tweet & Handle
Post a tweet announcing that you're leaving Twitter and moving to the Fediverse. Something like this:
It's important that you include your full Fediverse handle (in my case it's currently @firstname.lastname@example.org). There are utilities that people are using to crawl Twitter accounts for this name, and this is how people are connecting your account to Mastodon.
Just to be doubly sure, I also updated my profile, something like:
And updated my username to my Mastodon handle - @email@example.com
I think this combination of things makes it very clear to people who follow you that you're leaving, and also ensures that your profile can be crawled by whatever people come up with. It's not a perfect solution by any means, but you better damn-well believe that Twitter isn't going to make this easier.
Replace Twitter with Mastodon on your phone
Okay, now that your profile's all set and such, delete Twitter from your phone. You're probably at least a little addicted to the app, and will habitually tap that little blue bird and start scrolling content before you even realize you're doing it. Bad!
Install any Mastodon app on your phone in its place (I use Toot! on iOS but there's plenty of really good free versions on the app store.). Place it in the exact same spot as where your Twitter app was. Now when you find yourself idly trying to tap on Twitter, you'll be reminded that you're on Mastodon now.
Don't worry, you can still check it through the browser. This creates a small barrier, and will be sufficient in the sufficient. Why? Because really, you should not scroll Twitter's feed. Instead, pop in, check notifications, reply to people who interact with you, and get the heck out of there. I noticed after a few days of using Mastodon that when I went back to Twitter it was noticeably more stressful. I felt crappier even looking at the app, and found it pretty easy to do exactly this.
Set up Crossposting to Twitter
One thing that really helped me transition was by setting up an automatic crossposting relationship with Twitter. This gave me a chance to get in the habit of using Mastodon instead of Twitter, and still gave me the chance to include the people who still are on Twitter without abruptly extricating myself from their feed. This can be done using this tool. It's really easy to set up.
One point of caution though - I personally saw this as a tool to help you transition to Mastodon, not indefinitely post on both Twitter and Mastodon. I mean, it probably can be used as such, but really - do you want to be in the business of managing two slightly different instances of your content across two platforms? I didn't either. Take as much time as you need, and when you're ready you can start eh process of severing the tie from Twitter.
The binding to Twitter weakens as time passes, and as you use Mastodon more, I promise. It will get easier.
Auto-Import Followers From Twitter to Mastodon
Shortly after I got into Mastodon, I discovered this handy little utility that will crawl your Twitter followers to try and find an associated Mastodon profile in their bio, or their pinned tweet. Mine only found a dozen or so people, but I also imported from a few lists I’m subscribed to, and found many more. I expect as people migrate away from Twitter this will become an increasingly popular method to jump-start your follower list on Mastodon, especially if people follow the instructions here since it ensures that your fediverse profile will be easy to snatch from this crawler should others use it in the future.
Request an Archive of Your Content
After a week, month, year, or whatever it takes for you to feel truly ready to finally commit to truly stopping with Twitter, it's time to start the process of finalizing the transition.
This is especially useful, since many people you meet in the Fediverse may not have the context of some content you publish, and it is very helpful to have access to your previous Tweets & media to help offer context. I found myself frequently looking up tweets from a year or so ago for a photo or something I absently shared to give additional context to Mastodon. Avoid linking directly to your Twitter account if you can help it - you'll probably be deleting that content, anyway.
You're also going to use this in the next step to help you import your followers, so there's that.
I even took this a step further - my personal site indexes most of my micro-content tweets (not replies, just original content and retweets), and I imported most of that historical content directly into my website. This effectively removes that content from Twitter, puts it on my site, and makes it possible for people to interact with the content directly. Now I can link to that content without referencing Twitter ever again. Winning!
Delete Your Tweets
Deep breaths, it's okay. If you've exported your content, don't plan on using Twitter again, and have imported your content to your site, there is no reason for it to remain there. Even if you haven't imported the content on your site, as long as you have the export from Twitter, there's really no reason why these need to continue to exist at this point. All this does is invite people to interact with your old, and potentially cause you grief. Save yourself the drama and just get rid of it.
Unsurprisingly, this is a difficult process, and you'll probably have to pay out of pocket to make it happen (freaking social media, right?). I used CircleBoom to accomplish this, but afterward it became apparent that tweetdelete.net was probably a less-expensive option. It was slow, required a twitter export, and cost me nearly 30(!) dollars. I'm hoping that someone will comment on this post with a better suggestion because this was not ideal, but I didn't have time to look closer so I reluctantly ponied up the dough.
Once you've finally removed all your Tweets, go back in and add a pinned post notifying everyone that you've officially moved away from Twitter, and will no-longer be checking here.
And just like that, you're free from Twitter, and have gained a measure of control over your online identity. Great job!