They’re both basically the same thing, in terms of information consumption: You and all your friends and acquaintances post small updates about your life that are aggregated into a larger list that makes it easy to keep up-to-date on what’s going on. But because of how those lists are built, there’s a huge difference in quality.
Twitter is a public feed of information. Anyone can “follow” a Twitter feed, and there’s no big value judgement in doing or not doing so. You may follow a Twitter feed because it’s a company that gives out hints on upcoming games or deals, or because it’s your best friend’s Twitter feed and you want to keep up to date on their life. Or heck, maybe you don’t follow your best friend’s Twitter feed, because all they post is pictures of their dog, and you’re not into that. And that’s no biggie. Nobody really gets offended here.
But on Facebook, if you don’t want to see that constant stream of dog pictures, you’re SOL. If you want to get rid of that stream, or avoid seeing it at all, you have to “de-friend” that person, or never “friend” them at all. And that’s a value judgement. That causes hurt feelings.
As a result, I have on my Facebook a bunch of people I barely remember or barely get along with, or can barely understand (my francophone cousin, for example). I have no desire to upset these people by “de-friending” them, but my Facebook feed is awash with bad poetry, advertisements for games and bands I care nothing about, and foreign language. To me, it’s almost entirely useless, because I can’t say “no” without making a social judgement call on people.
Also, the ability to say “yes”
The other benefit of Twitter is that since it is a public feed of information that anyone can follow, I can keep up with some genuinely cool people that would never add me as a “friend” on Facebook. People like:
- John Romero @theromero (Creative genius behind ID studios during Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake.)
- Markus Persson @notch (Creator of Minecraft.)
- Edward James Olmos @edwardjolmos (Admiral Frakkin’ Adama. Also, he followed me back!)
- Adam Savage @donttrythis (From Mythbusters.)
- John Carmack @ID_AA_Carmack (Technical genius behind ID studios to this day.)
- Sean Plott @day9tv (Day9 – does nightly live webcasts about Starcraft 2.)
- Yahtzee Croshaw @YahtzeeCroshaw (Author and Zero Punctuation creator.)
- Faye Whitaker @fayewhitaker (Fictional character from one of my fave webcomics.)
- Wil Wheaton @wilw (If you do not know this man, you are on the wrong weblog.)
My Twitter feed is so much more useful than my Facebook feed, it’s embarrassing.
Also, apparently Facebook filters your friends feed, in an attempt to get you “more relevant” information.
a) It freaking fails. My Facebook feed is about the least relevant thing on the internet, and
b) I don’t *want* my feeds automatically and magically filtered by some third-party algorithm. I want to manually ensure that I have high-quality content in there in the first place. You know, like I can do on Twitter.