The visibility of a post on Mastodon depends on its visibility setting. These settings decide which other accounts have permission to see your post.
On Mastodon there are four types of post visibility. You can set the visibility of a post by clicking the icon that represents it in the row below the message editing window. It’s usually a 🌐, 🔒, 👥 or @ icon. You can set the default visibility by logging in through the website and going to Preferences > Other > Posting privacy, then set what you want as default in the menu and click Save changes.
Some more details about each setting:
- Public – Anyone can see it, even people who aren’t on the Fediverse, and the posts will be visible in searches on Mastodon. If you go to a person’s public profile page you will see all their public posts. This is normally indicated by a globe icon 🌐.
- Unlisted – Anyone can see it, but it won’t appear in the Explore section or the Local or Federated timelines, and won’t be searchable by hashtags. This can be useful for replying in threads, so that you’re not filling people’s timelines unnecessarily. Normally indicated by an open lock icon.
- Followers-only – Only your followers can see these, normally indicated by a lock 🔒 or people 👥 icon. If you use this setting, it’s a good idea to switch on follower requests, otherwise anyone could follow you to see your followers-only posts. You can do this by logging in on your server’s website, going to Edit profile > Require follow requests, tick the box and click Save changes.
- Mentioned – Only people you @ within the message can see this kind of post, it’s normally indicated by an @ symbol. This is the Mastodon equivalent of DMs. IMPORTANT: Only mention people if you want them to see the message. If you want to talk about an account without them seeing the message, don’t @ them.
Sending DMs in Mastodon
You can send DMs by setting a post’s visibility to Mentioned, then @ the people you want to receive the DM. If you log in through the website, there’s a Direct messages option in the menu which lets you see all your mentioned posts in an inbox.
If you @ someone in a DM, they will be able to see it
⚠️ In all modes including DMs, if you @ someone in a post, they will see that post! Be really careful who you @ in a post because it’s the same thing as sending them a message.
I can’t see Unlisted as an option on my app?
Unlisted is available as a visibility option on almost all versions of Mastodon including the websites and the third party apps, but not on the official apps. For some weird reason the developers of the official Mastodon apps decided to leave it out. If you’re comfortable using Github, you can let the developers know you want it added on the iOS version ⧉ and the Android version ⧉.
Setting your default post visibility
You can set which visibility is your default by logging in on your server’s website and going to Preferences > Other > Posting Privacy, choose the default you want and click Save changes. This is only a default, you can still override it for individual posts by clicking the visibility icon.
Is it possible to edit post visibility?
You cannot edit the visibility of a post after you’ve published it, so make sure you choose the correct visibility before posting! If you absolutely have to change the visibility, your only option is to delete the post and start again, which is most easily done by clicking ⋯ below the post and then Delete & re-draft. If you use this option, the original post will cease to exist, its boosts and bookmarks will disappear, links to it will break and its replies will be orphaned.
Who can see my boosts?
When you boost a post, it will immediately appear in the home timelines of all your followers. The original author of the post will also get a notification to say that you boosted their post.
When do replies appear in the Home timeline?
Replies will appear in your Home timeline if any one of these are true:
- The reply mentions you
- You wrote the reply
- The reply is by someone you follow AND mentions someone else you follow
- Someone you follow is replying to themselves to create a thread
When do Unlisted posts appear in the Home timeline?
Unlisted has a slightly complicated behaviour pattern in the Home timeline, and this isn’t officially documented for some reason. Here’s how it works:
Unlisted posts and replies from people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline, unless they are a reply to someone you don’t follow. If they’re a reply to someone you don’t follow, they WILL NOT appear in your Home timeline.
Or if you want a complete list:
- Unlisted posts (not replies) from people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline
- Unlisted posts and replies boosted by people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline
- Unlisted replies between two people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline. This also includes a person you follow replying to themselves, for example if they are posting a thread.
- Unlisted replies between a person you follow and another person you don’t follow WILL NOT appear in your Home timeline
What about visibility in searches? How do I set the searchability of posts?
By default, posts can only be searched for if they are public and have a hashtag in them.
However, if you want to, you can set your posts to be visible in “full text search”, which means all the words in the entire post can be searched for by other people. This is switched off by default, but you can switch it on by opting into full text search.
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