Facebook is for Friends, Twitter is for Interests

2014/4/24 16:00

Two years ago I was in a miserable position. I’d started work at company that had no work for me to do.

They were stockpiling talent in lieu of future need, hiring aggressively. Management didn’t bother to even entertain busy work or small scale tasks. All development was forbidden. We were told to wait for a product management team to form and then to wait for them to deliver requirements in the distant future. Once we burned through everything that needed to be documented there was no other project on the horizon.

During this stretch I started leaning on Facebook to get me through the day, devouring all the posts my friends could attach to their feed.

I’d scoffed at Twitter prior to this. My argument was the standard “what good are just 140 characters” but by the end of the first month I’d started following an impressive amount of news sources. I reached that sweet spot where every five minutes another 20 articles would get posted. A beautiful way to fill in the hours.

As the barren weeks stretched into months, I found myself appreciating anonymous, impersonal, Twitter to my real-life friends on Facebook.

Part of the problem is that Facebook is for “friends”, but thinking on all the people currently listing me as their friend, there are only a handful I feel obligated to maintain discourse. There are a few that I don’t mind, but the bulk are people who are no better than familiar acquaintances--friends of friends, people I met only briefly, people I’ve naturally drifted away from over the course of life. I’d hazard a guess that most everyone can say something similar.

The Zynga-led social game revolution probably tested the limits of online friendship more than anything that preceded it. Suddenly your valuable feed was polluted with posts about virtual farming and crudely drawn mobsters. That would be annoying no matter who perpetrated it, let alone from that guy who I only knew from his standing outside Starbucks and shouting nerdcore conspiracy theories five years ago. Or that person who always seemed put off when in physical conversation bombards the feeds with dozens of vacation photos.

Twitter on the other hand focuses on interests. It has a unique double opt-in. I can follow anyone online, but they certainly don’t have to follow me. All we have to link us are our interests, with no obligation that interest be mutual.

Of course social relationships intrude, but Twitter's different than Facebook. Posts aren't prioritized. There's no algorithm in the cloud weighing the value of a post and whether it's important enough to bother your followers. Everything you post or share makes onto Twitter. Every post has just as much a chance to get seen as every other post.

There's a beauty in that, even if the odds of post getting seen by the people you intend it for.