Friday, April 08, 2011

Twitter, Social Media Without All the Relational Baggage

I decided to give up Facebook for lent.  So in the past few weeks I have engaged a bit more with Twitter (I know this is kind of like giving up beef for lent only to eat fried seafood every night.)  I only went through moderate Facebook withdrawals and have learned to lead a quite happy life without it though I will likely return to Facebook in a few weeks. 

What I've Learned as a Tweeter
Though I have had a Twitter account for a couple of years it has remained mostly neglected because I just didn't really "get" it until recently.  I read a very insightful interview with Twitter’s founder recently in one of those magazines you find on an airplane.  When asked about the difference between Twitter and Facebook he likened Twitter to a person’s own customized news feed.  Twitter isn’t about relationships as much as information.  This idea really helped me to understand what I might get out of Twitter that blogging, RSS Readers and Facebook don’t offer.  So armed with this idea I began following interesting sources of information.  Initially I only followed people that I really liked but then realized that Twitter could be a great place to learn to get a wide variety of perspectives from others that I might not normally choose to consider.  So I have have chosen to follow an eclectic blend of news sources, Sci-fi aficionados, non-profit humanitarian organizations, comedians, social commentators, and more than a few rather geeky science feeds on physics, asteroids and theories that are way over my head.  Oh, in this mix I also follow a few friends and fellow bloggers but that seems almost more incidental in the Twitter universe.  

At first it was a little weird to post something on Twitter and get no feedback whatsoever when the same status update on Facebook might have drawn 15 comments but again I had to realize that Twitter isn’t so much about social networking as social informational networking.  And this is why Twitter is not such a drain on time because it really doesn’t scratch the itch for human interaction much at all (though it certainly can lead there).  I read a great post (Twitter vs. Facebook) by Frank Viola on this subject in which he compared Facebook to a class reunion and Twitter to a roundtable discussion.  I think he’s on to something.  I tend to think of Facebook as more of a party and as such it likely appeals more to extroverts and outward processors.  Twitter on the other hand is not only a great stream of information but is a lot less taxing on those who are not so much into parties and crowds, those who might be more introverted or at least partied out.  Twitter seems to give a person more power to interact in places they choose without always having to navigate the uncomfortable issues that arise in the highly social world of Facebook over misunderstandings, strong opinions, those who want to "friend" you that you don't want as friends, the steady stream of invitations to play games and support causes that one has to constantly reject etc.  I will likely go back to Facebook but I suspect I will use it much less in the days to come because even though I am more of an extrovert and outward processor sometimes I just don't feel like going to a party.  Sometimes I just want to sit on my back porch and read.

  • How have you processed the differences between these two types of social media?  Are you drawn to either one of them more?  And do you think this has anything to do with your personality and the format of these social media tools?

By the way, you can tweet this blog or post to Facebook by clicking on one icons at the bottom of this post.  Go ahead try it!  Really!


Betty Richard said...

I agree with the Facebook party. I follow several people on Twitter but don't usually post. I don't think anyone's interested in reading, "Eating a cheese sandwich now..." or "My bookshelves just fell off the wall! #%^&*!!!" I post on Facebook sometimes, but really just use both mediums to hear with others have to say.

But I like your idea of following people on Twitter as of way of broadening my horizon and finding out what others are saying. For example, it was through Twitter that I learned that there is a bunch of debate over Rob Bell's latest book. And it was through Twitter that I found Steve Martin and his silly posts throughout the day.

Maybe all this will make me bold enough to post my own tweet...

Penny Murray said...

I've never really got into twitter, but this helps me to understand the differences. After reading this I have a feeling I'd like Twitter more than Facebook. Facebook is exhausting!

Pi Man said...

Well, I know how this is going to be received after I type it - LOL! But I don't use FB or Twitter. (As Crispin cups his hands to his mouth and screams "YOU'RE A CAVE MAN, TIM!") Really, it's just a matter of time before they enter the "short attention span cemetery" and are replaced by another "gotta have" technology. Email, and what's that other thing called? Oh yeah - the phone, are more than sufficient for me. I do follow a handful of blogs and have a blogger profile so I don't have to post anonymously, but I do not blog myself. I figure if it's important enough for someone to contact me, they will. I know I contact them when it's important to me. Finally, let me say that while I think it's interesting, it's simply something that just doesn't interest me that much. You know that, Bro. I'm more of a utilitarian guy. Heck, my cell phone is pre-Katrina! HA! Function over form for me in most things my friend. And believe me, I'm a happy little camper with that (seriously). In any event, I think it was cool that you gave it up for a while. Thanks. TA

Crispin Schroeder said...

You are so old school Tim. I bet you still have some of those things they call records too!

Nathan Ayres said...

That is one of the better descriptions of the difference between Facebook and Twitter I've seen. Thanks. I struggle with defining it sometimes.

I love Twitter for the exact point you make about it; it's an information stream. The format also lends itself to fit as a better mobile medium as well. It's much easier to read your Twitter timeline than wade through your Facebook news feed on your phone (using the apps of course, though twitter works perfectly well text-only).

To support your point, it seems to me that re-tweeting is a more valuable response than a reply, simply b/c your passing on the info, furthering it's reach.