Aug 5, 2009

Facebook Is Not Twitter. And Why That Should Make Us Happy


Two trends I’ve noticed lately: (1) the last stragglers seems to have given up having Twitter automatically update Facebook and adopted Selective Twitter or some other plan instead. Like so many of us who were active on both platforms a year ago, they’ve realized that their Facebook friends, an unlikely mélange of childhood pals, high school and college classmates, neighbors and work mates really don’t care what Mashable just said about Four Square. At least not on an hourly basis. Amazing what a bit of eye rolling, gentle ribbing and good old fashioned peer pressure can do.
Facebook has emerged as the place where all the disparate elements of your life converge. I find it oddly comforting in a warm and fuzzy sort of way when I’ll post a picture or something and get comments from a range of friends from different eras of my life who then start talking to each other. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty cool the way Facebook can unite disparate threads of my life, and introduce people who actually know me on more than a superficial level.
Which is why I’ve not been surprised by trend #2: the expression of surprise over the fact that Twitter is a much better place to get traction for links of all sorts than Facebook.
You see the sort of people who enjoy sharing links gravitate to Twitter because it’s where they find people who give them the best links to share. Most of them have no idea who these people they’re following are: they’re merely vessels who provide them with the latest news stories and breaking memes on topics they’re interested in. (Said topics, in my experience, being invariably centered around the nexus of technology, marketing and social media.)
So it stands to reason they’ll find those links far more valuable than links provided by the kid who grew up next door to them, someone they spent most of their childhood with, but whose shared Facebook links are mostly to local news stories about her kids hockey team.
And you know, that’s all for the best.
For a while there, it looked like Twitter and Facebook might be converging, especially given the Twitter-like feel of the Facebook redesign, but now it looks like they’ve taken distinctly separate paths.
I remember noting back then that Facebook is about people you know and Twitter is about people you don’t know* and that the former is going to be the more popular proposition. That’s a distinction that still holds true and has, more than anything defined their divergent paths.
Yet another reason why evolution is just so fascinating to watch.
*Some people suggested making that “people you want to know” but I’m still not 100% buying it: while many people do use Twitter for networking, I think a lot more are more interested in retweeting their Twitter pals than in actually getting to know them


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