The problem with social media is… it’s social. I don’t sit behind my laptop all day to be social. Honestly, if I want to be social, I might actually decrease use of the computer and lieu of the phone or even resort to physical interaction.
I use my limited free time on the computer to stay informed about things that interest me. I now subscribe to about 80 RSS subscriptions resulting in about 200 articles a day. Because I only subscribe to “interesting” sources, my signal to noise ratio is very good and improving. The control I have over the content that comes to me is far superior than traditional printed subscriptions or other forms of media.
But it isn’t perfect. Sometimes there are really interesting things to read about that would that never get to me via my RSS feeds. That’s where Twitter comes in. The idea of Twitter is simple: surround yourself by interesting people and you will learn interesting things. People use Twitter to be social in short conversations, and that is nice – I’ve met some interesting people thru Twitter. But the power of Twitter isn’t the conversations, it’s the links. When I come across an interesting article, I post it on Twitter – and folks that find me interesting might find it interesting. That’s what is meant by “followers”. It has nothing to do with my ability to lead these people, but rather they are following my interests. But more importantly, I follow interesting people and they post interesting things. Despite my RSS subscriptions, close to 50% my interesting news comes from my Twitter network.
So while there is a social aspect to Twitter, it is far more about learning new and interesting things than anything else. The people I’ve met and learned to respect are often people I would never have met anyplace else. For example, Randulo in France has some great views on telecommunications and VoIP. Angsuman in India provides interesting perspectives on technology, and DaveTaylor, who lives in my hometown offers valuable answers to common problems (like how to dry out an iPod). I have engaged in conversation with these people, but it is professional chatter, about the topics we share interest.
Twitter is news and updates. It is live, real time communication about things that interest me. It is simple. It brings entertainment and education to me with very little baggage. I don’t have any obligations to my Twitter followers – if I don’t provide any updates for a week few will notice. There is no complaining if I don’t read their updates either. Twitter offers social interaction with no strings attached.
Facebook on the other hand is very stressful. More and more people assume that you are active on Facebook, and resistance may indeed be futile. I tried to just login like I do on Twitter to passively observe, but it won’t allow it. Someone sent me a Muppet test which seemed harmless, but my acceptance of this challenge was communicated throughout the network as was my poor Muppet test results. I can’t follow people and people can’t follow me without express permission. Then comes the stress of having to friend or not friend people. On Twitter, anyone can follow me and I don’t mind. But on Facebook, adding a friend communicates courteous mutual interest which isn’t always there. The difference is Twitter is postcards, it is no big deal if a stranger reads it. Facebook is letters, and I’m not sure I want to share my intimate thoughts and photos with distant relations.
I can barely keep things organized in my real life. Facebook users expect that I update my page with current details hourly or daily complete with photos plus view everyone elses updates. It requires a real active online role. Facebook “friends” report detailed accounts of their lives which I’m now supposed to remember. But it doesn’t stop there, it includes people that aren’t friends or family, such as friends of friends, work colleagues, X-girlfriends of relatives, former neighbors, and people I don’t even remember or know but I am afraid to unfriend; all sharing intimate details of their lives and sending me games and trivia and I’m expected to play along.
Yes, when I do log into Facebook, I do find it educational and entertaining. It is fun to catch up with some folks, but then a request comes along that I want to ignore. I find it easier to ignore Facebook; at least so far. Unfortunately, Facebook is increasingly required for certain things. I do maintain an account, but I have all notifications turned off and ignore just about everything it offers. This works for me, but the number of times I am “ignoring” Facebook increased from monthly to weekly and sometimes even more. It is like avoiding the flu when everyone around you is coughing.