I was warned by my brother a while ago that should I start tweeting, he would stage an intervention. I had already confessed to accounts with facebook, multiply, myspace, and several others (disclaimer/explanation: all of those sites are customers of my longtime employer). Twitter, to the uninitiated, looks like the crack cocaine of social networking that turns the weekend photo-poster into a hardcore jittering lifecaster. Nobody wants to see their family member come to that, right? But follow along, twitter has purpose. Or just skip to the bottom.
I was never an active friendster user. The first site I used regularly was the more inward-facing multiply.com – and then mostly because it was an easy way to foist photos of my daughter on my extended family. Multiply is more of a community-based, relationship-savvy site than a place to find online friends. If I am cousin-of-John, it makes the assumption (with my consent) that I am interested in content by wife-of-John, brother-of-John, etc. Combined with who I have directly connected to, Multiply can quickly become a nice "walled garden" of family and friends content and connections. Easy media uploading, a slider I can set to "show me what the people close to me are up to", and that’s really about all I needed.
But then, like everyone else with a facebook account, sometime in the last 18 months a bizarre game of "this is your life" began. Invitations to connect came in from grade school friends, distant family, former co-workers, babysitters and fellow inmates. Scratch that last one.
I’m in (facebook-only, mostly) contact with literally dozens of people that I hadn’t talked to in 5-25 years, that I seriously doubt I would have ever heard from or about. Its really interesting, and I enjoy seeing the 2-3 things a week they note about their lives, the occasional photo or link to what they’re doing. Unlike Multiply, facebook defaults to "everyone is an acquaintance" and gives you one firehose of updates sorted by when they were posted. Its fun to gaze over when I have a few minutes online and see who is up to what.
Tweets then started to bleed in to the status update page. I knew of, and had zero interest in, this "text the world" service called Twitter. Why would I even use an online outlet to send a message to a friend of mine? I have an email address, cell phone number and at least one IM handle for most of my friends and families… can’t I connect with them easily enough? So why on earth are there facebook updates like "hanging out with @tomjefferson in #philly #consitition #usa"? What’s with all the @ signs and hashes?
Well, it was low-effort enough (no "friending", much less relationship definition, required for most posts) to review the updates for an individual person on twitter. Good friends who lived far away, co-workers involved in a crucial event, things like that (the celebs like Lance came later). To streamline the process of viewing those, I got an account.
Twitter is the most stalker-friendly social networking site. Twitter by default does not even ask if you know or like anyone, only if you want to "follow" them. Seems kinda creepy for those unfamiliar with the Information Age. And it really is like a big water cooler on the internet. It’s hard to resist joining in after a bit.
The photos of the kids still go to multiply, and I still watch facebook to keep up with a more extended group. But the most inane of updates and commentary are best put out to twitter, and here is why. My frustrated tweet when a desktop social networking client crashed on me:
pantoniades: #gwibber unstable on fedora 11. Need a new desktop Twitter client.
Inane, right? On multiply I’d confuse more people than inform. I promise you most of my family doesn’t understand the context for half of the words above. On facebook, that’s just clutter. But on twitter, here’s what happens next:
pauljakma: @pantoniades grab #gwibber 1.2.0 (e.g. from #Fedora rawhide) – works great
I don’t know Paul Jakma. I’m guessing he’s a gwibber developer or enthusiast. But more importantly, he’s right. Yes, I could likely have found that tip in an IRC channel, bugzilla note or through some google search, but I was really not invested in this client. I got the fix, he kept somebody on his project, and neither one of us invested much effort (presumably he has a tickler on "#gwibber").
I haven’t found any long-lost friends on twitter, and I’m not putting the photos of my kids goofing around in the bathtub on facebook. Perhaps there is one uber-site to rule them all, but I’m also quite happy with the three I’ve got. Provided I can dodge the van my brother sends to take me off to deprogramming.