So I’ve been thinking lately about social networks. I have accounts on a few of them and I’ve wondered what it was about each that appealed to me. I find that more often than not I only have negative things to say about these programs. I suppose we’ll start with that first.
Historically humans have had ebbs and flows of their lives as it pertains to other humans. You meet people in Junior High, High School, at Jobs or wherever and someday you just don’t keep in touch anymore. This can be sad but it is a bit like farming, you till the earth and let it recover from the heavy harvesting you’ve been doing for the past few seasons.
With the rise of social networks like MySpace and Facebook we see those connections never being severed. People are in eternal connection with everyone they’ve ever met. Your brain never gets a chance to relax and it never gets a chance to reconfigure. If you have falling outs with anyone you know you will be constantly reminded of them through the Kevin Bacon style network of connections on these services.
They hoard all your personal data and sell it for more money than you’ll ever make. It’s not much different from wearing a shirt with a brand logo blazoned across the arm or chest. You are a product and they are milking you dry. Add what colleges you’ve been to, what jobs you’ve had, what music you like, what shows you like, who you are married to, how old you are, and much much more. They want to know everything and then some.
You give more information to these tools than the government could sneak out of you on a good day. Your entire world is laid out for everyone to see, to probe, and to judge. What you get in return is not entirely obvious either. I certainly don’t feel richer for these services but I understand the repercussions involved with severing a connection like this. These things are much like the cellphone and they have people locked into something more similar to an abusive relationship than anything genuinely healthy.
With that out of the way let me talk a bit about Twitter and Facebook. I want to discuss why I feel Twitter is better, which I understand is entirely subjective.
I’m sure you can put lots of details about yourself into your twitter profile. However the pages don’t do much to highlight any of it. Facebook brags about all the information it has milked out of you, it spreads it all over a profile and you see it crop up in hundreds of ads a week.
Updates from your friends and family are routinely spread apart with large quantities of obnoxious and barely relevant ads. Facebook lies to you about what your friends and family like (What’s that? Racist Carl loves minorities? Sounds fishy!) The games that come along with FB are largely just shady scams, a legal casino with lower rates of return for the player.
Facebook is trying to do everything and that’s where I feel uncomfortable with it. We should [probably] never consolidate anything like this because they will do exactly what Facebook has done and bastardize the programs the moment people are hooked.
Twitter tries to do one thing and do it well (as far as I can tell). It gives people a central hub for quick thoughts and updates. If you want to read something more detailed you can follow the posters link to the relevant post on a separate website or you could even start a conversation with someone. Facebook markets you on what you are, gender, age, education, all the demographics marketers orgasm over. Twitter markets and presents you on the who you are.
The 140 character limit both provides for deeper thought in expression but at the same time it facilitates snowballing misunderstandings which can be started much easier than Facebook. But I think that this is a bit like capitalism or evolution, you must adapt to be succinct and elegant.
Sure some people use letters for words, misspell things and whatever else but this is no less prolific on Facebook.
To me Twitter is what a social network should be. An area to share your thoughts and experiences that breaks up all the different forms of expression to other services. Images on Tumblr, videos on YouTube, and text on your own web journals.
It’s beautiful and something that eluded me. I almost never use it but I have a deep level of respect for it. So I suppose that is it. I just like the idea of a website dedicated to your mind and not your marketable demographics.
My last thought for tonight on this (that I’ll post) is that Facebook is probably the best concealed interactive advertisement in human history.