Some Thoughts on Facebook and Twitter

I’m a member of a group called Mobius – it’s an invite-only conference that Microsoft holds once or twice a year, and it focuses on mobility. There’s a private mailing list for Mobius, and it’s always full of interesting discussions. Yesterday there was a discussion about Google Wave and it spilled over into talking about Facebook and Twitter. One of the people mentioned the idea that as long as people use social networking in a professional manner, they’re good things. That triggered something I’ve been pondering for a while now, so I thought I’d share here what I wrote on the list.

“Ah, but there’s the catch! There’s no consensus on how tools like Facebook and Twitter are used – it’s like email, how do you decide the “right” way to use it?

You mention professional purposes, but I’m of the exact opposite viewpoint. Facebook for me was great in the beginning because my friends on there were really my friends. Then Facebook got really popular, and suddenly business aquiantences wanted to be added as “friends”, PR people I deal with wanted to be added as “friends”, and visitors from my sites wanted to be my “friends”. It completely changed the dynamic, and even the meaning of the word “friend” in an online sense. Sites like LinkedIn are social networking for businessses, yet most people seem to prefer to use Facebook for that because it has such momentum.

Then there’s the whole issue of person vs. site. It’s not my place to tell peole how to use technology, but when people on my “friend” list started to import their RSS feeds from their technology sites, I un-friend them. Maybe I’m weird, but if I’m friends with someone on Facebook, or following them on Twitter, I want to see what’s going on with them as a PERSON. If I wanted to know what’s going on with their Web sites, I’d open up my RSS reader. Mixing the two just makes a bit of a mess…

Twitter is a whole different ballgame – but it has the same type of problem when you want to follow a person and instead get a news feed from their site. I created Twitter accounts for each of my sites that I feed an RSS feed to, then I have my own personal Twitter account. Twitter for me is really useful and interesting – I was initially very much against it, having seen a lot of what I’d call “Tweetbuse” (haha!) where people would tweet everything they were doing. “Eating dinner”. “Going to the bathroom” (I kid you not, I saw that once). Thankfully, you can easily unfollow people like that.

One thing I really like about Twitter is how I get connected to opinions from people all over the place – I posted about trying to watch the movie “Day Watch” and only getting through 25 minutes of it, and within a few hours I had four strangers sending me messages telling me that the books were much better, and I should check them out. That’s really valuable to me – and I get a lot of interesting feedback about technology as well.”

  • chrisgohlke

    I’ve got a bunch of friend requests in limbo because I won’t add them. If it takes me work to figure out who you are and where I know you from, I’m not adding you. I had the debate about adding people I work with, but decided to add them, including my boss, because I pretty much would say anything to their face that I post on Facebook. I did agree with my boss that we would add each other as friends, but neither of us could use anything we see on there against the other. I also, somewhat controversially won’t friend my parents or aunts and uncles, but have all my cousins. It is just a personal thing, and kind of weird, but I don’t want my parents having as close of tabs on me as I do my friends.

  • Facebook is for friends talking about friend related junk, posting strange pictures, and generally being silly. LinkedIn is for businesses talking business stuff and networking. I hold to those fairly strongly, although recognize that the greater majority of my statuses (e.g. google reader shared items, etc..) are applicable to both. Hence the reason seems to work well for me so far.

    On a related note, the more disturbing thing I see is the way Facebook distorts people’s sense of privacy. For example, we received an application at work today, and while looking over the resume sent in, I decided to google the name (mostly because I was bored). I turned up a pretty crazy blog that detailed how frustrated the person was that they couldn’t find a job, how they were basically applying for everything they could find, and how they were depressed over their life in general. I didn’t forward it to my colleagues because I know how much it has biased me in regards to that person already, and having all the interviewers in on that knowledge could seriously jeopardize this person’s shot (If we even decide to bring him/her in). Obviously you wouldn’t write in your application letter “I’m applying anywhere that’s hiring, even places outside research positions such as Borders & Barnes & Noble”, but you’ll put it on your blog apparently. I’ve always tried to keep this in mind while blogging: Yes, be honest, but don’t be unprofessional – ever!

  • Jon,
    Interesting story! If I was hunting for a job, the last place I’d be complaining about finding a job would be on my blog. That’s just idiotic.

  • chrisgohlke

    Which is a reason I keep my Twittter, Live Journal, and Facebook accounts locked down. You only get to see if I let you in.

  • I created a group in my Facebook friends list for coworkers and that group has significantly limited access to my profile and no access to read or post anything. If there are individual coworkers to whom I want to grant more access, I add them to an additional group with fewer access limitations. I didn’t want to add anyone from work because I try to maintain a fairly strict work/personal life separation, but politically it’s difficult to say “no” to a request from your boss. So I’m passive-aggressive about it; I say “yes, you can be my Facebook friend,” but then hide everything. 🙂