While the best explanation of what Mastodon is and how to use it is here… and the funniest condemnation of the inherent complexity of mastodon precisely because companies that would seek to make the sign-up and login experience smooth for everyone are gatekept away from mastodon is here (“You think someone is successfully explaining this shit to Cher? Bless your heart…”) My favorite analogy is moving from a Bank to a Credit Union, because I did that move around 2011/2012 due to the Durbin Amendment and the feelings around it are REALLY similar.
So, way back in 2011 in the US the Durbin amendment happened. It lowered the fees that banks could charge vendors for debit card transactions. This meant that banks were going to Lose Money which they very much do not like to do, and they made the decision to start making up the difference by charging their customers to use a debit card.
Now, they weren’t going to charge all their customers to use a debit card, just the ones that had been using ‘free’ checking accounts: Accounts that had no minimum balance requirements and free debit cards that every bank created in a race-to-the-bottom to try and get more and more customers into brick and mortar banks. Because banks had basically set a deadline that said “Tell us whether you want us to send you a new ATM-only card or whether you want to upgrade your account (which would either have a monthly fee or a minimum balance requirement), many customers (including me) balked and started looking for other places to do their banking. Several banks would let you keep your free checking account if you had a big loan with them (house/car, etc), but there were also all these credit unions and online banks that would give you a free checking account with debit card that were looking for customers and didn’t have the same profit goals that regular banks did.
Eventually, a bunch of customers (me included) left their banks for greener pastures. Many of them realized that credit unions, while local with only a few physical locations, had an extensive ATM and banking network. Thus, you didn’t have to worry about being several states away and suddenly not able to get cash or deposit a check or doing any other bank things. You just went to the website for the credit union and found “Where can I go do [banking function] near me” and would get a list of nearby ATMs and credit unions that could do that [banking function] while connecting back to your local account. The websites and mobile apps for credit unions also did all the same stuff that most banks did (allowed for transfers and mobile deposits and setting up bill pay).
Banks eventually backed down, keeping the debit cards for “free” checking accounts for customers that hadn’t left. Apparently so many “deadbeat” customers leaving eliminated enough expenses to appease shareholders. They were happy until they realized that none of their alienated customers were going to come back to them to get/refinance a loan anytime soon.
I was one of those customers. The ‘debit-gate’ incident motivated me to start looking into credit union as a place to do most of my regular banking (direct deposit, bill pay, occasional withdrawal cash for drag queens) with a local credit union. I bounced off a false-start with an online credit union because I misunderstood the terms (their free checking with mobile deposit and no ATM fees and direct deposit weren’t available to me). But I then found another local credit union that had those things and use it for all my main banking and experience way less issues/disdain than I did with the two regional banks I used before (I moved from one to another because of a screwup on their end, and then left the other because of debit-gate after a couple of months making sure that I wouldn’t see any issues).
My shift to Mastodon reminds me a bunch of that bank to credit union mishigas a decade ago. There was the same sort of mistrust (“Aren’t Credit unions really bad about dealing with fraud? What if I need cash when I travel?” “If I join mastodon, won’t I lose access to half of my friends when there is some petty spat between server admins? Will anyone else even move”). Then there was me trying to join a completely inappropriate mastodon server because I didn’t quite understand “Oh, there are these really big open servers and these teeny tiny locked-down servers that are only for people who already own that domain, and then there are these medium sized ones that try to focus on knitting or being lgbtqia antifascists…” before I found one of the medium-sized servers I liked.
Now I am in that honeymoon phase with mastodon where I can do pretty much everything I wanted to do on Twitter, but there aren’t constant ads, and I’m being shown things that I indicated interest-in (people I followed making funny jokes or re-posting things that I was interested-in, the #knitting hashtag) and not being shown stuff that is statistically more likely to make me angry because some marketing asshole found out that humans are more likely to buy shit they see in an ad if they are coming off a rage bender.
I am still happy with my decision to move my main checking account my Credit Union. I still have a few other accounts (online savings) and a credit card with a Big Bank… but I figure scooting microblogging interactions over from Twitter will do me better in the long run.