Facebook vs. Twitter

Believe it or not, I'm not what most would consider an avid social media user.  Yes, I blog as often as I can and I update my Twitter and my Facebook status at ridiculous intervals, but those are the only sites that I use.  But, as I said, I use them a lot.

Given how often I'm on Twitter and Facebook, I began to compare the two, in part to figure out which one I prefer.  And I've come to a simple conclusion: the difference between Twitter and Facebook is not unlike the difference between fantasy and reality.

Facebook is the internet version of real life.  You get a much more complete picture of people.  I would say that at some point in my life -- albeit sometimes briefly -- I have actually met roughly 95% of the people I'm friends with on Facebook.  Facebook is a two way street; you have to be friends with someone to follow them and, in turn, they get to follow you.  You can have discussions on Facebook -- I've even had arguments.

Facebook is the "warts and all" of social media.  Yes, you can filter what you see, but it's all or nothing.  So either you put up with the occasional political diatribe from your friend or you miss seeing their updates completely.  That great picture of the sunset taken during their vacation is posted right next to the picture of a grown man in a skimpy Halloween costume.  You run the risk of getting too much information.

But that's reality; you take the good with the bad.

And then there's Twitter.

I love Facebook because it allows me to stay in touch with so many people.  That is really the only reason I love it.  If I want everyone I know to know about something, I post it on Facebook.  It's fantastic that way.

Twitter isn't good for any of that.  Twitter, really, is only good for one thing: fantasy.

I would hazard to guess that I have only actually meant perhaps 10% of the people I follow on Twitter.  Of that 90%, I would hazard to guess that only a hand full of them have ever responded to anything I've ever said, either to them or in general.  Twitter is entirely voyeuristic.  So where's the appeal?

For me, it's the fact that I get tiny glimpses into the lives of people I find interesting.  I follow a lot of writers on Twitter and a large number of their Tweets involve bits and pieces of what their daily life is like, a life that involves writing for a living.  That's the dream for me.  Following them on Twitter gives me these flashes of what that dream is like, or what it could be like.

Twitter is built around shared interests as opposed to real life connections.  If I follow a writer I like, inevitably he or she will retweet something from someone I don't know, and it will be interesting enough for me to read more of their Tweets.  Suddenly I'm following someone new, someone who has similar interests.  A lot of time, these people will share links they think are useful or ideas they think are worth discussing.  If Facebook is for the practical, married with 2.5 kids side of me, then Twitter is for the "I still dream of being famous" side of me.

And, really, where else could I exchange 140 characters with someone whose work I enjoy and actually get a 140 character comment back?

So which do I prefer?  I honestly couldn't say.  Facebook is strangely more practical, but Twitter supplies me with a bizarre form of motivation.  I don't know that I could really choose between them.