Why I prefer Twitter over Facebook. And why you might want to.

Like everyone dedicated enough to technology to have multiple accounts on websites across the internet (and I refer to the years when the convenient Login with Facebook button was not around) I am an economical user of both Facebook and Twitter—and more recently, Google+, but let me not go into that right now.

Facebook was created to promote ease in linking with your friends and acquaintances and, as it later turned out, bosses and never-before-seen people. But I need hardly say that here considering there are people who make far greateruse of Facebook than I do—including my mother. For one, I do not put up photographs on Facebook; and, frankly, the only reason I am on Facebook—apart from to promote my website—is because, in society nowadays, to whose expectations you have to tiresomely bend, if you are not on Facebook you are unanymously considered technologically backward and outdated.

That said, I use Twitter more extensively. You will find the Twitter application adorning the home screen on my phone, and you will not find the Facebook application at all. That was just to give you a comparison. But many wonder why I am so. The point is simple: Facebook is an obligation, and Twitter meets my needs.

What Facebook is for 

Before you decide to skip this section, you might want to hold back and read through it. I am not going to give you a detailed picture of Zuckerberg’s magnum opus; instead, I am going to state my perspective of it and why it is of no use to me.

Everybody knows that someone (I do not wish to jog my memory at this point) gave Mark Zuckerberg a bravery award. It was because he values his privacy more than [yours.] Facebook was opened for elitists with a .edu email address but it has come far from there. Apparently, Facebook is to connect with the people you wished to get away from.

To hide my skepticism and bias, let me rephrase myself: Facebook is to connect with people. One connects with old friends and new enemies and unknown people who, clearly, are a far safer group to chat with. But that is not why I use the Internet. I use it—and in fact this is the only genuine reason I ever do anything—to expand my knowledge base. And, frankly, one fact strewn in between a hundred status updates that are of absolutely no use to me is a waste of time.

I do not want to know where one went or what one is doing when and how. That is not what Facebook is for, or is it? This is analogous to amateur tweeters (whom I followed for a period of two months as a little experiment I was performing—more on that later) who sit at the breakfast table and tweet what is on their plate; and then do the same thing again for lunch and dinner and a few more times in-between. Their followers, those who are not of the same feather, could not care less about others’ diet.

How many friends do I have on Facebook? 

There are, on the other hand, genuine pages that provide update after update of interesting stuff worth a read in the true sense of the phrase. These are what keep me on Facebook.

To the general public, my Facebook profile does not reveal how any friends I have (or who they are, for that matter) and this seems to catalyse one very prominent question: how many friends do I have on Facebook?

Fair enough, considering everybody is on a race to have more friends than the others and Zuckerberg and co. noticed this soon enough to put a limit to how many people you can call your friends.

But I never have answered the question. I have not dodged it either; I merely say, ‘no comments’ (or something to that effect.) Today comes the revelation. And, no, I do not have more friends that you. I have twelve friends on Facebook—including my parents, which means ten friends, really. And I only got the tenth one today.

Understandably, the follow-up question is why?

I believe—and ask anybody who is around me for quite some time—that the words we speak actually mean something. And every time we say friends, we spell responsibility. Needless to say, one is responsible for the friend one makes and one is responsible for the friend one keeps. The point is, I know many Facebook users who boast hundreds of friends on Facebook and they cannot even recall all their names (let alone other details.)

The way I see it—and the reason why I have so many friends on Facebook—is because, if I were to (say) alienate myself from the Internet for a decade, I believe these are the people that are worth remembering once I come back.

An honest question at this point would be whether I get any friend requests at all, or, if I do, what do I do with them. I ignore them. No, not literally; I do remember almost everybody who has sent me a friend request, but I click the ignore button just to prevent a piling up of my notifications.

Tweeting your way to recognition

Apparently, a school teacher in a wealthy suburb in the US (whose name he wished to be withheld according to an article I read recently) knew that his students all had Facebook accounts. They even had MySpace accounts; but when he mentioned Twitter, nobody knew what it was. They had heard of it, but the question still remained: what is it? And how does one work on it?

Surprisingly, this is true of many people. While everybody has heard of Twitter, and many have an account in it, not many knew how to use it to its full potential (which is far greater than one can imagine at first.)

Steve Thornton, in a guest article for Twitip, puts it beautifully: (pardon me for not resisting the urge to copy an entire section from his article. It just cannot be put in a better way!)

Let’s say you go to a wedding or other social gathering where lots of people know each other. The style and tone of communication there will be more like using Facebook; you chat with old friends and acquaintances, mixing and mingling in an intimate manner. In this setting, people tend to feel more relaxed and “in their element”. Conversations are familiar and center on shared experiences and connections.

Now, when you go to a large party or social event where you don’t know most of the people in attendance, you will use a very different style of communication, more like Twitter; you want to meet people and somehow make yourself known, stand out from the crowd, make an impression, self promote and make new connections. Twitter is like getting the podium and not everyone feels comfortable or knows how to stand comfortably in the spotlight.

In fact, almost all of us, when first approaching Twitter, tend to use it to post useless updates like “Going to lunch”, thinking of it as a another tool to communicate with friends, when in fact, it is more like stepping on to a stage, where you are communicating with an audience and quickly find that you need to find a voice and say something useful and interesting or quickly lose the attention of your audience. People refer to Twitter as a mini or micro blogging platform.

Why do I prefer Twitter?

If it has not already revealed itself to you, you might want me to expand on why I prefer Twitter to Facebook any day.

For starters, one cannot survive on Twitter if one does not post tweet regularly, and tweet things others will find useful, at that. You cannot, for instance, signal to the world when you had dinner and hope to get even half-a-hundred followers.

The Twitter community (so long as you do not build one attributing it to stuff like friendship and whatever else while sacrificing on practicality) is far more scientific—or at least serious—minded and the entire platform moves fast. One moment you have the limelight, the next moment somebody has it. And it is not the kind where you despise the thought of losing it. You are joyous and you have gained a lot from this transition.

Twitter is a cross between e-mail and blogs. You can share stuff, be it links, articles or even photographs, as the latest version allows exclusively; and you can tweet to get almost instant replies. Of course there is the Direct Message feature and URL shortening that most Twitter clients too have built into them.

When asked why they love Twitter, users say like “I can ask a question and get an instantaneous response”. They crave the ability to “tap into the collective consciousness” of others on the network, bouncing ideas off others with whom they would otherwise have no means of connecting. Twitter addicts claim it’s like the old fashioned water cooler, where people can gather to shoot the breeze on whatever topic is on their minds.

As Thornton puts it, “Twitter is like a communications stream you dive into for an invigorating swim..”

As one Mike put it, following Google’s successful search engine race back in the 90s, Twitter is most likely to win the race of the social networks and not Facebook, simply because it keeps things simple and does not offer too many choices.

The fact remains that Twitter is where you can build your personal brand. Although Facebook is not a platform any company would leave out in their ad campaigns, it is clearly Twitter that they use at a fast pace, all day long, reaching out to their fans in realtime. And for my own small part, I feel more at home in Twitter. After all, it is a mere 140 characters away!

Have your say below.