Twitter vs. Facebook

As both networks increasingly catch on within the masses (including everything from grandmothers to six year-olds), I hear more and more people express confusion about the differences between Twitter and Facebook.  Why use one and not the other?  Or should it be both?  Both sites let you keep in touch with friends, send private messages, and share photos.  Almost every company that advertises a social media presence offers both options.  So what in the world is the difference?

Let’s find out, in as simple a format as possible.

I’ll break down the major advantages of each to let you better decide where your interest might lie:

Distinctions of Facebook

  • Sharing photos and videos with friends and family. Facebook’s built-in features (and storage) for these types of items don’t exist on Twitter. You can upload complete albums, link your friends’ beautiful faces, and share them easily through tagging.
  • Oh, those games and applications. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, Facebook has a slew of Farmville, Who Has the Cutest Dog?, and Answer a Question About Me! applications. Facebook also has all of these applications visible by default, so users have to deliberately hide them if they wish to.
  • Larger group conversations via comments, including non-friends. When a friend makes a post, you’ll see the full thread of conversation, including people that you do not know (non-friends).  This essentially widens the audience for all Facebook posts.
  • All connections are both ways. In Facebook, two people are either connected or they’re not.  This is a major distinction from Twitter, as we’ll see in a moment.
  • Fan status. To see updates for a restaurant, business, celebrity, or web site, you have to “Like” the page in question. This has resulted in a bit of a popularity contest for many businesses, with raffles and other marketing ploys to get customers to “Like” them.

Distinctions of Twitter

  • All relationships are one-way. In Twitter, all relationships are “opt-in”, meaning that you can follow someone (to see their updates) without them following you back.  This ultimately means that people are more likely to allow followers because there is no reciprocation needed.
  • Twitter has become the defacto choice for businesses and celebrities. Largely because of the above, business owners, actors, athletes, and other personalities are increasingly embracing Twitter because it is so simple and brings little negative impact.  Some examples I’ve found pretty entertaining: Nathan Fillion (Castle – http://bit.ly/gxkVte), Lea Michele (Glee – http://bit.ly/fH4SXO), Oprah (http://bit.ly/grGZoH), and Stephen Colbert (http://bit.ly/hhxIPh).
  • Facilitating the spread of information. Of all of Twitter’s features, this one is silently why it has become so popular.  With the concept of “retweeting” (passing along someone else’s post), it is very easy to both spread information and give credit back to the original person that posted it. This culture leads to really interesting content, because people want to say meaningful (or entertaining) things and get retweeted.
  • Users only see replies (i.e. comments) from people they follow. Another big distinction from Facebook, this means that if you don’t follow someone, you never see what they say unless they specifically direct it at you.  Compared to Facebook, this is like only seeing your friends’ comments instead of the entire world’s.
  • Link sharing. Although Facebook supports link sharing, Twitter has become the most popular place to do it. This is really important for business and trade purposes, because it is an amazing way to stay up-to-date with news, careers, skills, and causes.  In my case, I have found this absolutely invaluable for keeping tabs on the world of web design, simply by following a handful of dedicated web designers (who constantly share thoughts and links on the state of the industry).
  • Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters. This can be both good and bad, depending on how wordy you like to be.  But ultimately this ensures that all posts are concise, which supports both texting and post digestability (if that’s a word!).

Can You Use Both?

Absolutely.  There are applications (for phones and desktop) such as TweetDeck that allow you to post to both places at once, and if you’re seeing someone’s posts in both places, simply hide them in one or the other—whichever service you use least.

Note that if you add the Twitter application to Facebook (which automatically posts all of your tweets), Facebook consolidates these posts together and hides them unnecessarily. This is why I use a service to do it instead.

My Take

I use both of these services frequently, but for mostly different purposes.  Because of its widespread adoption among casual users, Facebook is absolutely my go-to place right now for general friend updates.  However, I do not post photos and personal details there because Facebook’s security has always been a little hazy, so that limits its usefulness somewhat.  Instead, I use third-party services (such as Flickr) to do this and link to them on both sites.

It’s Twitter, though, that I’ve really come to love after ignoring it out of the gate.  Mostly it’s been the professional and entertainment worlds that have driven my enjoyment of it, and again, I have discovered an incredible number of web design tools and articles via other web designers.  This concept has easily be applied to any trade or passion—even getting up-to-the-minute updates on your favorite sports team (something my father has quite enjoyed).  And on top of that, the pure entertainment of following your favorite personalities (often actors, in my case) puts the icing on the cake.

If you hear people slamming either of these services, they’re being naive.  Each has its benefits to offer, and if those benefits are not for you, then that’s perfectly okay.  But there is little question that both are providing great value for many, many people.

Are there things I’ve missed?  What are your favorite aspects of one or the other?  Feel free to leave your own comments (something that should be easier to see on the new blog here).

The Things To Know About Facebook

So you’ve heard of it before, and now you’re starting to really hear about it.  Then comes the dreaded, “Everyone else is doing it!”  Not wanting to be left out, you sign up, and you’re now staring at a hundred different things, all looking for your attention.

No, you’re not Octomom.  You’re a Facebook user.

Facebook has taken the world by storm, probably more so than every other medium at this point.  MySpace became the haven to crazy seventeen year-olds, budding artists, and fluorescent pink backgrounds.  Twitter was a foreign language to the majority of Americans, much like text messaging (omg! this is gr8, lol!).  Instant messaging started to fade when it couldn’t be hooked into mobile phones well.  But Facebook persevered more than any other, because of its initial sense of no frills…but more important its ability to look up and find countless people that you hadn’t known or seen for years.

Old roommates, high school friends, former lovers, and random people you knew but didn’t care about.  All of these are now a simple search away.  But with technology comes the unknown, and with an application like Facebook, there’s still a heck of a lot of unknown for many people.

So I thought I’d take a few moments to toss in some advice for Facebook.  Take it for what it is, and let it guide you to whatever degree you think it should.  With that said, here are the ten rules I think everyone should follow on Facebook:

  1. Don’t accept everyone in the world as your friend. In general, people don’t like conflict, and it feels a little wrong to flat-out reject someone as a friend.  Can you imagine if the world were full of moments where someone stopped you in Target and asked, “Hey!  Will you be my friend and share your info with me?”  Awkward. You’d probably throw out whatever diversionary tactic you could think of and run screaming in the other direction.  So my advice:  don’t let Facebook be any different.  And best of all, if you choose to “ignore” a friend request, they never know this.  Their request just doesn’t get answered, and they’ll never know whether you ignored it or just don’t use Facebook that much.  Problem solved.
  2. Set your privacy settings to be a little more strict. At the top of each page, there is a “Settings” link, and under that another called “Privacy Settings.”  Of particular interest on the next page is the “Profile” link, where I have set every single category to be “Only Friends.”  Ironically I ran into the same phrase every time one of my relationships ended, but that’s another story.  But in this case, you’re stating directly that people that you don’t accept as a friend can’t see any of your information.  By default, a lot more is open to that, including photos and the people you’re friends with.  It also helps control access to the crazies (see point #1).
  3. Encourage others’ content before your own. The best thing about Facebook is the running dialogue with friends and family, so try to comment on their statuses, links, and other activities when you can.  This can be serious, humorous, or anything in between.  And when things die down a little, then you can throw in your own content to get things going.
  4. Don’t post information about how many times you’ve had sex, or how many movies you watched this week, or what your deepest darkest desires are. There is such a thing as TMI, and most people would be somewhat mortified to share this kind of thing at a party.  Why do it on Facebook?  It might haunt you forever, you know, with people finally knowing about your long-closeted love for toe fungus.  Think about it.
  5. Use the Links section with wild abandon. One of the best and most-underused parts of Facebook is the Links capability–that is, people sharing links to various web sites, articles, or other content.  The web has become so expansive that more and more content becomes obscured these days, so what better way to enlighten friends by sharing links with them?  If there’s a site that you love, or something that you find fascinating, simply copy the link to your clipboard (highlight and Ctrl-C), paste it into the box on the Links page, then Share.  Add a note, and now your friends can share the love with you.  And not the kind that causes diseases or awkward water cooler moments.
  6. If you don’t want someone as a friend anymore, toss ’em to the curb! One of the lesser-known things about Facebook is that if you remove someone as a friend, they are never informed. You simply stop showing up in their friends list.  So if you need to do a little cleansing, particularly for people that you won’t see in person, just quietly remove them.  Another problem solved.
  7. If you’re into music concerts, there’s an amazing application called iLike which highlights all concerts by your favorite musicians. With most artists doing everything they can to earn a living, almost all of them are hooked into applications like Facebook and MySpace.  If you perform a search in Facebook for “iLike”, you’ll find one of the best applications there is, and a terrific way to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to see your favorite artists in person.  You can also share your music likes and dislikes with friends if you wish to, as well as see unique artists updates and music videos.
  8. Keep an eye on what your wild siblings are doing. I have witnessed my brother, through the various capabilities of Facebook, do the following:  get romantically serenaded by a man, catch a pie in the face, embody the heart and soul of Queen, harass a little girl for speeding in her backyard vehicle, and pay tribute to the late Steve Irwin through a stirring performance in the darkness of his house.  I think you’ll agree that it’s better to know these things are happening…well, more so than not knowing.
  9. Experience the true oddities of worlds colliding when friends from one part of the world see comments from other friends they haven’t met. There’s nothing more entertaining than seeing people have that “WTF?” moment after reading comments from your other friends, especially inside jokes.  As an example, a friend and I have a joke going about neighborhood crime (which there isn’t), so one day after I accidentally left my garage door open, he posted on my wall to say that someone might steal my car before the day was over.  The next thing I know, I have worried relatives writing to me, worried that I was having my car stolen.  That’s entertainment.

As with everything, Facebook is something that has to be used the right way to avoid having it go too far.  There are times when it becomes information overload, and the thing has so many different applications that you can be flooded if you’re not careful.  But with a little selectivity, and just the right dose of crazy, it’s one of those things that brings a lot of entertainment.  And of course a reunion with just about everyone you ever knew.

Just make sure to post a beautiful picture, preferrably not the one from your high school prom.

The Eternal Debate: PC vs. Mac

I think most of you know that I am now a bona-fide Mac user, and in general this statement alone causes one of three reactions:

  1. You make the “Oh, God, it’s one of those snobby Mac lovers that is going to lecture me for ten minutes on why my computer sucks” face.
  2. You pump a fist in the air, in that geeky sort of no-arm-strength way, and reaffirm that we both rule (or in extreme cases you might kiss my mac).
  3. You stare at me as if I just talked about which paint I like to watch dry, and you go back to texting on your cell phone.

This debate has raged for years and years, never dying in its intensity.  In recent times, the edge of this war has become blurred by the unparalleled success of Apple’s iPod, which has created additional crossover success for Apple’s computer lineup.  But the war continues unabated.

The amusing thing, however, is that many users can’t give a definite reason why one is better than the other.  I have people ask me about this all the time, and I’ve slowly tried to work my way to a much better depiction of the two universes (since I have both types).  I’m also one of the rare people that say both Mac and PC are equally viable:  there are groups of people for which each is truly better.

So if you’re thinking of crossing over, but are filled with uncertainty in an uncertain world, here are what I think are the most important points to consider:

  • PC’s are less expensive.  A lot less expensive. Anytime you hear a Mac person bragging that a Mac is better, know that he or she probably paid twice as much for it, provided that they have a full power desktop or laptop.  This really sets the two apart and does not make it a fair comparison.  The only exception is the Mac mini, which is a small, efficient Mac that does not come with a monitor, mouse, or keyboard.
  • Macs are without question easier to use, and far easier to solve problems on. Everyone has those computer problems that make you want to pull all of your hair out and sob like a child at a horror movie.  Drivers, significant virus concerns, hardware compatibility, blue screens of death, and complicated installations…all of these almost never happen on a Mac.  When you install a program, for instance, you drag the program from the disc folder to your Applications folder.  Almost everything else is plug-and-play.  It’s really that simple, and it’s a huge headache relief.
  • There is more software available for PC’s, but unless you’re a power user/gamer this gap is far less than you think. In recent years many major companies have all developed applications for both Mac and PC, including Microsoft Office, all Adobe software, and all web browsers.  Casual users have almost no problems getting the software they’re looking for.  The most significant advantage for PC’s still lies in the realm of  games, some power applications, and work-specific platforms (anything your company has built to let you work from home, for example).
  • Macs have significantly more appeal, including the cool factor. If you’ve ever seen one, it’s hard to deny that this is true.  Apple has developed a fair number of applications, in addition to the computers themselves, that become eye openers at parties, or just flat out fun to show off.  This particularly applies to playing music, generating screen savers and videos, and creating slide shows of photographs.  It’s rather like comparing an iPod and a Microsoft Zune in the MP3 player market.
  • Macs own the market on compatibility between computers. Because Apple is the only company that creates both its computers and their operating systems, it can take a lot of liberties in terms of how these computers can talk to each other.  As an astonishing example, I bought a new Mac last year, and I allocated an entire Saturday to transfer over all of my software, settings, files, etc.  When I plugged in the new computer, it simply asked me if I wanted to copy all of these things over from an old computer.  So I connected the two…and 45 minutes later my new computer looked exactly like my old one.  Unfortunately PC’s can’t do this because there are countless PC makers.
  • For applications that exist on both systems, I simply don’t adhere to the arguments that one is simply better than the other. I’ve used a number of applications on both systems for some time now, and I personally believe that there is no real difference.  The true benefits lie elsewhere, in the things mentioned above.
  • For the average user, PC’s still own the market. In spite of some of the advantages above, only certain people truly benefit from the added cost of purchasing a Mac.  PC’s have been around a long time, and their familiarity and cost still win the argument in most cases–simply because most people don’t use their computers enough to warrant the hike in cost to switch over.  Of course, there is still a tough choice for PC users over what kind to by.

So if you’re thinking of making the switch, it might just be worth it, or it might not.  I do hope the above helps a bit.  For me, a fairly serious computer user, I am very glad I bought a Mac.  But my situation is not that of  many others, and I’d always advise everyone to carefully evaluate their own situation before forking out a lot of their hard-earned money.  Unless you run a Ponzi scheme, in which case you can do as you like.

The only case I’ll make a fervent pitch is the iPod Touch, which I am an avid fan of.  I do believe that might surface in a future post, where my love affair will publicly make itself known for the first time.