Why Facebook and Twitter are Not The Same Service

Since Google+ came out I’ve been thinking about social networking, what’s good about it, what could be better and which one do I prefer? My answer is and probably always will be: Twitter. The problem is, every time I tell someone that I use twitter I seem to get the same response:

“I just don’t get twitter, isn’t it just status updates?”

Well, no, it’s not. It’s so much more than that. I see Twitter as a service that encapsulates what is right about social networks and generally tries to stay away from what’s wrong with them.

Twitter ≠ Facebook

First of all, Twitter is not a Facebook competitor, this is not an either/or battle of services like the majority of Facebook users seem to think (this is encapsulated rather well in the quote above, using Facebook terminology to try to understand the basic concept of Twitter). Twitter is a completely different beast, offering extremely different features to Facebook. Saying Twitter is a Facebook competitor is like saying that Flickr is a Facebook competitor, they both host photos don’t they?

Secondly, Facebook and Twitter aren’t mutually exclusive, just because you have a Twitter account doesn’t mean that you have to stop ‘liking’ all those kitten videos on Facebook or telling everyone that you’re a “maybe” for your ex-workmate’s 23rd birthday piss-up. I have an account on both social networks but I use them in hideously different ways due to the clientele, privacy policy and general atmosphere on each network. I’ll go on and break down these three points to give a general outline of why Twitter is, in my opinion, a more satisfying social networking experience.


Obviously this will be different for everyone who uses Twitter but from personal experience, the people you follow on Twitter are enormously more interesting than the people you friend/like on Facebook, sometimes the same person/business will be much more interesting on Twitter than he/she/it is on Facebook. I don’t know why this is the case, maybe it’s due to the character limit and therefore the higher propensity to use links, but I will always find people hugely more interesting and agreeable on Twitter than I will Facebook.

Also, if you are of the celebrity or business following/liking persuasion, I think you’re much more likely to have real contact with that person or business via Twitter as opposed to Facebook. Personally, I’ve had a number of quick exchanges with developers from apps I use and I know many people who have had contact with other public figures (Kieran’s Q&A answer from @joshuatopolsky for example). I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any of the people I know getting anything back from a public figure on Facebook that they’ve ‘liked’.

Privacy Policy

There’s been so much written about Facebook’s privacy policy changes over the past year so I’m really not going to delve into this too much. If you’re interested I’m sure a quick google search will get you up to speed. Basically, due to the myriad of menus and submenus you need to fight through to get anything close to a secure set up, you have to assume everything you post on Facebook is public knowledge and should be treated as such. The problem comes when the majority of Facebook users still haven’t realised this, so what you tend to get is a huge over-share from people you really don’t want to know about, and if you don’t want to hear it, you have to unfriend them, which apparently is a rather large social faux-pas nowadays.

Twitter on the other hand has very clear, walled differences between its public and private spheres: using @s is public, using a DM is private. Simples (I’m sorry, I had to). Twitter even recently made a slight change to their authentication process for third-party apps that clarifies exactly what access you’re giving to said app, again, simples.

General Atmosphere

I know this seems a strange heading, and if I’m honest I don’t think I’ve worded it correctly, but my point here is how the rest of the community use the social network, what is the unwritten “correct” way of using Twitter or Facebook? My answer would be that Facebook is meant as a way to keep in contact with people that you would otherwise lose contact with. If you look at the standard Facebook user’s friend count it’s usually over the 100 mark (I’m being conservative in this estimate), now as far as I know, I think it’s really difficult to keep good relationships with half of that number and I don’t really want to have ongoing relationships with more than that number. So for me, Facebook’s use is superfluous to my needs as a human being.

Twitter’s use seems to me as more of a content sharing platform, kind of like the hybrid content sharing/blogging services that are rather popular at the moment (Tumblr, Posterous etc. etc.), but in a much quicker and better implemented way. The way I use Twitter is to gain knowledge of what’s going on in the world and to further my knowledge of topics that really matter to me; therefore I follow people that share that knowledge.

I suppose the real measure of this is how often I Instapaper things from Twitter as opposed to thing from Facebook, and I never Instapaper things from Facebook.

Wrap Up

My view of Facebook comes across rather poorly in this piece, to hardcore Facebook fans I apologise, I merely see Facebook as a distinctly different service to Twitter and would prefer that the two services be used in the way (at least I think) they were intended. I suppose my main point was to give my view on why Twitter shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement for Facebook among Facebook users, how successful I was in this aspect is really a stab in the dark on my part, feel free to let me know in the comments or on twitter via @TheRealTechRant or @ikent18 but if you must, you can of course comment on our Facebook page.

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