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.”