Everything is fleeting
December 1, 2012 4:27 AM   Subscribe

"It feels strange to be active and highly visible on the Web for 15 years but it was only when I joined Facebook that someone from elementary school or high school ever contacted me." In which on Ev Williams's platform, Mr Haughey compares his experiences of Facebook and Twitter.

Other recent comparisons of Facebook and Twitter by Forbes, Forbes again, the New York Times, Social Times and Tweetsmarter.
posted by Wordshore (106 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
While forming this FPP, I waded through a lot of dreadful, superficial, ridiculous and poor comparisons of Facebook and Twitter. The ones included below the fold on the post aren't that fantastic either. Hoping that other MeFites know of some good ones with some substance.
posted by Wordshore at 4:35 AM on December 1, 2012

Nice post. I too look forward to more essays that aren't based on leveraging the concepts of "suck" and "evil".
posted by ardgedee at 4:46 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have the opposite experience, I use Facebook a lot and just can't get into Twitter at all. Part of my problem with Twitter is just the network effect (or lack of it); almost no one I know in real life is on twitter so it's not a useful communication tool for me and the only people who could read my tweets would be the random political columnists, SciFi writers and mefites who's feeds I subscribe to. Almost everyone I know IRL is on FB so I know who I'm talking to so I know who I'm writing to. On Twitter, I just get such horrible writer's block trying to compose something witty to send out to whatever random people might read it in that I've given up on it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:57 AM on December 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

I liked Mathowie's thoughts on the subject. However, you don't need Facebook for Spotify [US signup page].

For me both platforms have their ups and downs. I still can't get over the feeling that Twitter is mostly a platform for public relations, and when used personally feels like a holdover of the dot-com Go Forth and Brand Yourself ethos.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:57 AM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

There’s no memory at Twitter: everything is fleeting.

While he's right within the context of the Twitter interface, I hope he doesn't mean this literally. There's plenty of archiving of past tweets going on around the Internet, and everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion for the rest of your life. (I'm exaggerating, of course, but you get the point.)
posted by maxim0512 at 5:06 AM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I can't get into either platforms.

I have friends and family who send-out invitations via Facebook and it tweeks me to no end to get them. I mean...The link to invitation on Facebook came in an email...Why didn't you just send me a fucking email inviting me???? And, yeah, the trend toward websites, apps, and commenting systems requiring a Facebook account login to use is just pure evil.

The point of Twitter is just lost on me. It's like a bajillion four-year-old all pointing and yelling "Look at this one!!!!" in a pet store. I tweet, maybe, twice a year, just to keep my account active.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:09 AM on December 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

I like Facebook precisely for all the reasons Matt doesn't. When he is my age I bet he starts feeling the way I do.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:27 AM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

We have all jumped the shark, lets hold hands, bow our necks and simply face it. "It" is of course stuck to the bottom of our shoe.
posted by infini at 5:30 AM on December 1, 2012

I kind of wish I could just see a person’s About page for five minutes and move on, as I don’t need the daily detail/updates of every old high school buddy’s life. Facebook doesn’t offer much granularity in this regard, without moving all your friends into complex groups with different levels of permissions.

This is how I feel too, and I wish that there were another service - or that Facebook would involve into a service - that's more like a directory, where you can fetch static information about people you've met when you want, and less like an ongoing interchange.

On the other hand, I've loved reconnecting with some people and found they turned into much more interesting adults than I'd have expected, and friendships have grown because of it.

I don't think I'd be much into Twitter if I didn't use it for work. It's how I connect with other museum people, and it's truly fantastic for that - asking questions, sharing jokes, filtering the best articles and blog posts. For my profession, it's a godsend. But I can't say I look forward to opening it up with delight - because it's for my job, so it's kind of in the work context. There's always something good/useful there though.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

In theory, I should prefer Twitter to Facebook. But the interface makes it impossible for me to like.

Apparently—going by the Twitter pages I've looked at; I've never had an account—you can't make a real link in a tweet, with link text and a hidden URL. You have to put the text of the URL into the body of the tweet. It is a completely pointless and annoying restriction that serves no purpose except to make the user experience that little bit shittier. Of course, no one uses readable URLs on Twitter because there is (was?) a draconian character limit so half of the URLs are completely opaque URL-shortener things, and if you do use a URL that's longer and reasonable, too fucking bad, Twitter will truncate it in the display.

You can't post inline images. Every single image has to be linked through a stupid URL shortener thing with, again, a totally opaque URL. It makes me feel like I've stumbled into some kind of web historical reenactment society, where people are playing at a pre-1993, pre-img-tag web.

And then there is the deeply bizarre conversation UI, and the fact that there is no distinction between a post and a comment, that everything is elevated to the same level of importance, which I think contributes to the "bajillion four-year-olds" feeling that some of us get when reading Twitter.

I'm sure that to Twitter fans this all sounds like complaining that Metafilter doesn't have threading. But to me, it's one of the most hostile and alienating interfaces of any widely-used web app.
posted by enn at 5:37 AM on December 1, 2012 [35 favorites]

This is how I feel too, and I wish that there were another service - or that Facebook would involve into a service - that's more like a directory, where you can fetch static information about people you've met when you want, and less like an ongoing interchange.

Facebook used to be this service. It has evolved out of it. For some effing reason.
posted by davidjmcgee at 5:39 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to college in 2004, when Facebook had probably hit a critical mass of colleges, but wasn't yet universal. I didn't make an account until the spring semester (2005) and, really, very few people from high school friended me. It's possible they just didn't like me, but it's more likely they all made accounts in September, madly searched for people they knew and added each other then, but by spring were no longer looking for people they knew from high school. (Okay, many of them didn't like me. But I wasn't so universally loathed that I didn't get friended by the queer kids (who I think just went round and added everyone they assumed was queer--no one was really out in high school on a wide scale).)

This is how I feel too, and I wish that there were another service - or that Facebook would involve into a service - that's more like a directory, where you can fetch static information about people you've met when you want, and less like an ongoing interchange.

Amusingly, this sort of was Facebook six or seven years back, which was the last time I really used it. Static information, plus a bit of wall posting.
posted by hoyland at 5:41 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have felt the same way that Thorzdad does. Granted, before I moved from WI to NH I signed up for Facebook so that I could keep in touch with my friends in WI.

But, when I did so I made a concerted effort, which pissed everyone off, to limit my exposure. I have no biographical information on my Facebook account. If someone I know wants to get in touch with me via Facebook I have a conversation with them over e-mail first.

What bugs me the most about the closed-loop style social media constructs (Facebook, twitter et al) is that those on the inside have no expanded incentive to talk with those on the outside. I would constantly hear back from people in SMS messages asking if I was coming to this or that event. When I asked why they didn't e-mail me they asked me why I didn't sign up so that I could see when these events were posted. I actually did almost miss a few important events in my friends' lives because of this deficit.
posted by Severian at 5:45 AM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Amusingly, this sort of was Facebook six or seven years back, which was the last time I really used it. Static information, plus a bit of wall posting.

I am less amused and more annoyed. I would happily pony up a monthly subscription fee to have Facebook's 2007 UI. In the real world, I've deleted my account and not missed it at all.
posted by davidjmcgee at 5:49 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is how I feel too, and I wish that there were another service - or that Facebook would involve into a service - that's more like a directory, where you can fetch static information about people you've met when you want, and less like an ongoing interchange.

That would be LinkedIn.
posted by Runes at 5:52 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't use Facebook, because I don't have a face - lost it in a hunting accident, in which I accidentally hunted down and killed my own face. Neither can I use twitter because in that same hunting accident, I hunted my own fingers and thumbs off. I love hunting but frankly if you don't have a face, fingers or thumbs you can only hunt by leaping out at animals and trying to sit on them and thereby squish them into a bloody pulp. Which is how I lost my ass - a hunting accident meant that I accidentally squashed my own ass and it fell right off. And with the loss of my ass, my legs decided to leave and seek a new career, as arms. So now I have four fingerless arms, no face or ass, but I still go out hunting every single day in my neck of the woods which is where I hunt for necks. Unfortunately I mistook my own neck for the neck I was hunting and - bam! No neck, ass or face. And my abdomen is wearing out because I have no legs and have to drag my abdomen around with my four fingerless arms. Actually my abdomen just fell off - damn. Now I have nothing, because the arms were attached to the abdomen via the chest, which also fell off. But I will NOT let this stop me from hunting, I assure you. And that's why I don't care for Facebook - I preferred MySpace, because I don't have any body parts any more, there is just a space where my body used to be. But it is undeniably "My" space. That's my point.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:53 AM on December 1, 2012 [23 favorites]

Twitter is fun. It has things like @horse_ebooks and @LastAdventurer. I can follow them and see all their tweets, without having to explicitly tell Twitter "show me all updates from" or categorize them in a list. No one's allowed to be as simply creative and fun as that on Facebook.

On Facebook people follow each other based on common interests. There's a huge community of musicians and music software types. No one demands my age, location and real name. I have absolutely zero interest in refamiliarizing myself with anyone from high school I'm not still in touch with, because they are Fucks. I'd rather meet new people with interesting things to say and Facebook seems designed deliberately at cross purposes to that.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:55 AM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

This Matt Haughey seems like a good guy. We should try to get him to give up Twitter and Facebook and join Metafilter. I bet he'd fit right in.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:56 AM on December 1, 2012 [17 favorites]

Turns out there is a Cabal. One ridiculously enormous cabal which everyone is in.
posted by fullerine at 6:06 AM on December 1, 2012

This Matt Haughey seems like a good guy.

We should buy him a cat.
posted by Sailormom at 6:08 AM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Because one curates one's own experience on both Twitter and Facebook, I'm not sure how one can ascribe any properties to either (outside of the obvious ones that simply describe how each site works). I have hidden all the whiny people in my Facebook feed and unfriended people who post stuff I find objectionable. On Twitter I follow a combo of real life friends, organizations, and celebrities that make my Twitter feed just how I want it--a lively mix of funny and important content. There are plenty of people who use Twitter to complain or post banal details about their lives; I don't follow them. There are lots of folks who use Facebook to post important, relevant news items or life updates that I want to see. The moment I get annoyed by the content on either, I just tweak how I am experiencing the platform.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:16 AM on December 1, 2012 [8 favorites]

The first time I examined an FB timeline - born, went to school, did this job, did that job, got engaged - thought "this reads like some kind of reverse order obituary".

And that feeling, that it's a gradually automatically compiled obituary of a person who is still alive, has stayed. It's probably not a positive feeling.
posted by Wordshore at 6:20 AM on December 1, 2012 [21 favorites]

I've had the same thoughts with regards to Facebook. I was #1 on Google for my name from about 1998 until last the last year or so. I made a game of staying above that actor with the same name, always enjoying the thought that some highly paid publicist somewhere hated me because he or she couldn't get her well known client to number #1 on Google for his name. In all those years, I think one or at most 2 people from high school every sent me an email.

I liked Twitter when it was new and it was mostly about connecting. Today, it feels like anything you tweet just drops into a black hole.
posted by COD at 6:21 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find Twitter and Facebook to be mirrors for my psyche. When I am feeling isolated and awkward, Facebook feels invasive and embarrassing. When I am feeling intellectually expansive, Twitter seems like fresh air. I get exactly the energy that I bring to them.
posted by acheekymonkey at 6:22 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

For me, Twitter reaches its apex when it's a forum for satirical inventions like @DadBoner, aka Karl Welzein, the Guy Fieri-crazed, recently unemployed middle-aged nutjob who embodies the obsessions of food, sex and booze in our culture, as well as the need to brag about these obsessions in cloyingly self-important tweets.

When I hit the Internet first thing in the AM, my initial thought is no longer, "is the planet still spinning?" it's "what's up with Karl Welzein?" Fiction that he is, he's the hottest, most interesting asset on Twitter right now.
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:24 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My experience with FB is different than Matt's.

It's kind of weird, but the people I interact with most on Facebook are friends and family in faraway place, plus people I've never met in real life (we mostly share some sort of Japan connection). I'm Canadian, but most of my friends are American and Japanese. For a while I was connected to old high school classmates (I wouldn't call them friends) but they're gone now. I have a few university friends in my circles, but that's it.

I don't typically post status updates, but I comment in threads. I post a lot of photos, mostly for my family to see.

I avoided the entire "timeline" thing by a) lying about my name b) not entering any personal info, including address, phone number, birthdate or schools. That's crazy, crazy.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:27 AM on December 1, 2012

This is how I feel too, and I wish that there were another service - or that Facebook would involve into a service - that's more like a directory, where you can fetch static information about people you've met when you want, and less like an ongoing interchange.

>That would be LinkedIn.

It's weird, but most of the time when I log into LinkedIn I feel like punching everyone in the face. Buncha corporate sociopaths.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:30 AM on December 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

I use Twitter mostly as a news source, because when you've got as many followers as I do, tweeting usually feels like this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:31 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I hit the Internet first thing in the AM, my initial thought is no longer, "is the planet still spinning?" it's "what's up with Karl Welzein?" Fiction that he is, he's the hottest, most interesting asset on Twitter right now.

Back when I was actively into Twitter, the first thing I'd do in the morning was check in on @AbeVigoda to make sure he's still doing okay. It was a quieter, simpler time....
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:32 AM on December 1, 2012

It’s early. Our killer team is quickly adding to what you see here—tweaking, and improving things as we go. As of today, everyone can read and give feedback on Medium posts. Creating content is limited to a small list, which we’re slowly expanding.

Could someone explain to me what Medium is? It looks like a blog with a Wordpress template.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:33 AM on December 1, 2012

I know a lot of worthwhile people from my past and don't meet many new people in the present. Also, I've got a lot more "what's new in the lives of my kids and animals" than I have "new ideas, music, and art, and lots of humor". Maybe that's why Facebook makes more sense to me than Twitter.
posted by drlith at 6:35 AM on December 1, 2012

FTFA: I kept running into applications that required Facebook, so I kept my account around.

I don't understand. I don't.
I get along without it just fine in every facet of my life.
I occasionally will run into things, events or restaurants, who have Facebook pages that require sign ons. I don't engage with them at any level.

I hear friends and family talk about Facebook this or that, and it as often ends in some sort of drama as not.

But they don't understand why I'm not on Facebook, and why I object to being tagged or what have you.

So, game even.

Twitter seems more useful, I suppose. But 140 characters leaves no room for nuance, or discussion. And seems like an entirely passive-aggressive forum of spite and famous people. It's easy to avoid, but less invasive, and less problematic. I never heard of Twitter-drama unless someone famous tweets something that Jezebel or whoever objects to.

I mostly ignore both. Personally, Metafilter > "Social Media".
posted by Mezentian at 6:38 AM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have friends and family who send-out invitations via Facebook and it tweeks me to no end to get them. I mean...The link to invitation on Facebook came in an email...Why didn't you just send me a fucking email inviting me????

Invitations, when you don't have a facefuck account, are now a great way to see who likes you enough to remember that you exist when you fail to show up on a little menu.
posted by kengraham at 6:45 AM on December 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

There's been a web for 15 years?
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:46 AM on December 1, 2012

Ahh, I've basically turned my facebook feed into icanhascheezburger.com by joining numerous funny, sciencey, anarchist, etc. groups, although George Takei started it. Facebook isn't nearly so time consuming once you've eliminated the possibility of encountering friends' status updates.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:48 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd have sex with my Twitter feed if I could. It's full of smart, funny, pretty people.

Facebook was mostly only good for finding out who I knew in elementary school turned out to be a racist.
posted by Cyrano at 6:52 AM on December 1, 2012 [25 favorites]

I haven't logged into Facebook for months. It is an annoying, ever-morphing UI that continues to make it more difficult to interact with my timeline in the way I want to. I would delete it altogether but I was able to reconnect with some close family through FB and so I keep it up. (They know to email me, though.)

Twitter, on the other hand? Every day, up in a background tab or in the recently used apps list on my phone. I generally follow people I know, or high-profile people who still engage with their followers. It is a cheerful conversation, and I've made some good RL friends through Twitter.
posted by catlet at 6:56 AM on December 1, 2012

I deleted my Facebook account (well, "disabled" – I think it's impossible to actually delete it) more than six months ago. Doing so has drastically improved my quality of internet-life. Facebook invites us to compare ourselves to one another in the glibbest terms – how many friends we have, where so-and-so works, where whats-his-name went to college. Voyeurism is at the heart of its design.

Like Mr. Haughey, I realized that I no longer cared about the activities of 99% of my Facebook friends, most of whom were high school connections, old coworkers, or people I knew in college who I've lost touch with. Those that I do actually keep up with are people I prefer to spend quality time with, without a digital wall between us. I tried to prune my friends list down to real friends, but found that Facebook didn't offer me the tools to do that, probably because it is not in the best interest of their advertisers. Whenever I thought I'd managed to clean up my friends' list, Facebook would change a setting somewhere and I'd be back where I started.

What it boils down to is, there are maybe fifteen people in my personal life that I could authentically call my friends – everyone else is an acquaintance, a connection, a colleague, or some shade in between. This is counter to Facebook's advertising model. Facebook treats my Facebook friends like they're all really my friends. To Facebook, every connection between two people is defined according to some graph weight algorithm designed by a team of data scientists, not according to the two people themselves.

I don't need to see my ex-coworker's vacation photos. I don't want to hear daily updates from that one guy I had a philosophy class with five years ago. On the other hand, I would like to see more thoughtful posts from my real friends about how their day is going, or what they're doing on the weekend. But Facebook buries this in a lot of noise.
posted by deathpanels at 7:03 AM on December 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

The things everyone tweets about are mostly jokes or things that make you smile, either random things that popped into the writers’ heads or comments on current events.

And this would be why I don't use Twitter and almost certainly never will. I have enough fluff in my life without seeking out more. Sarte noted that hell is other people; the deepest layer of that hell is other people's tweets.

Facebook fits a role as a way to passively/low-effort keep in touch with scattered people whom I am not close enough with to want to call every week. I could get rid of my account with very little pain, but the privacy concerns are balanced with some benefits so I've kept it.
posted by Forktine at 7:04 AM on December 1, 2012

I don't like Facebook. One example: My cousin's pet died recently. He posted a post that was a actually pretty sweet in which, yes, he posted a picture of the dead dog (nothing gruesome -- he said it looked liked he was sleeping and it made him feel better). Amid the sea of condolence replies was one from his mother (whose updates mostly consist of unhinged rage at the Obamas) screaming at him that he would be grounded if he still lived at home. I'm so glad there wasn't a platform to allow my parents to digitally stalk me during my college years.

So there's that, the relative who ends every sentence like this !!! My sister, who spams her wall with ads for the stuff she sells, and other people I'm told I'm related to who post cryptic passive-aggressive stuff. And I can't quit, because my mother, who refuses to get a Facebook account keeps asking me about these people. I'm continually reminded why I never kept up with these people in the first place.

Of course there are people who I do want to keep in touch with who are on, but they have the good sense not to post much, and they mostly post things I can't relate to, as I'm not in their lives in any meaningful way.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:31 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Facebook is great for keeping up with my family back in Sweden and with friends scattered throughout the US and the world. It keeps me up to date with the lives of my beloved cousins and their kids in a way that I never could have been before FB. You can easily limit who you see updates from in your news feed (go to the person's page, hover over the "Friends" check mark, either remove fully from news feed, or hit settings to reduce the amount of updates), so I don't ever really see stuff from acquaintances unless I want to make a quick check to see what they are up to.

Twitter is great for up to date news, for connecting more with actual friends, and for funny/insightful commentary on everything under the sun. My feed is also full of "smart, funny, pretty people" in a mix of friends, random brands, celebrities, joke accounts, etc. And you can easily pick and choose what you see by choosing who you follow. Follow someone for a day - oh, you know, she tweets too much about stuff I don't care about, so I un-follow just as easily. It's a fire-hose of information targeted directly at what I care about, and my life would be poorer without it.

I wouldn't want to choose between them, because they fulfill different functions for me. Arguing that one is inherently better than the other is entirely pointless. They are both services where you can choose how you use them, and they are different things to different people. Both have flaws, but they are not inherently bad or good.
posted by gemmy at 7:36 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Twitter feed, on the other hand, consists entirely of Nate Silver, PPP polling, and Anderson Cooper.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:39 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Social media for me used to be the BBS. You'd dial in on your rotary phone, slam it down approximately twenty times for busy signals that happened because someone else was currently connected, then get that screeeeee signal that meant it was time to clap the handset into the rubber cups on the acoustic coupler. Later, I got sophisticated with a Vicmodem and only had to switch the plug over, and after that, I had a proper 300 baud modem that could dial on its own.

It wasn't particularly social, with a pretty narrowly-focused base of folks with which to argue, but it was still something. Had Quantumlink, eventually, which was less exciting than its premise, then variations on AOL, then the whole damn internet and usenet in the nineties, then everything opened up.

On Livejournal, I wrote novel-length narratives in the manner, if not the quality, of the great serialists (defying most of the conventions of torrential self-pity that dominated LJ). Myspace gave me seizures, so I never managed to gain a foothold. Facebook originally seemed like a nice, clean alternative to Myspace, being essentially a ripoff of Livejournal, except that I could get people to read me there instead of having them complain that LJ was "confusing." These days, eighty percent of Livejournal traffic is "shared" bullshit photos and shared shared shared shared outrage trolling, politics, "humor," and inspirational bullshit, and it's social in the way that it would be to have your distant cousins, your vague high school acquaintances, and your mom all show up at your door and hit you in the face with a case of Hallmark cards.

Twitter seems idiotic to me, but I've at least tried to be a wit in my twits. I hear all this great stuff about the secret intellectual depth of Twitter, but it still seems an awful lot like the snippets of conversation that get yelled into your ear at a noisy gay bar. Still, I throw a few out once in a while, but since I'm not very good at the "LOOK AT THE COOL THING I JUST FOUND" hashtag whatchamacallity zeitgeist, so I have not managed to accumulate followers in any numbers.

On MetaFilter, I've been able to carve out a little niche as a sort of half-demented blowhard queer uncle with a penchant for rambling on in complete indifference to the actual topic of a post, and mefi people are polite enough to either reward this troublesome behavior or politely roll their eyes and scroll on to more meaningful responses.

I used to have a nice little website. Now I've got a sort of half-finished website, a half-hearted Twitter account, a legacy Livejournal, a blogspot blog so far completely unnoticed, a soundcloud page I've not had much time for, a youtube channel with a paucity of hits, a vimeo channel with less, a Myspace page I can't even find anymore, and leftovers on myriad false starts and abortive attempts and I'm less social than I ever was, and further from achieving any sort of storytelling self-promotion than I've been in years.

I had food poisoning on Thursday and posted a photo of how awful I looked, which caused the last girl I ever dated, way back in 1987, to quip that I could never miss a photo op.

"I'm narcississick," I replied, and felt like I should post that on Twitter, but didn't.

I created a "fan" page for myself, or at least for the blowhard showman version of myself, on Facebook, thinking I'd wean myself away from the tedium of the day-to-day in favor of pimping my rambling side, but that has not yet come to pass. I'm glad to have a way to have more of a connection to my Georgia cousins, my Explorer post mates, former coperformers and conspirators, and the friends who've moved away, if never leaving my consciousness, but Facebook needs one primary feature—a global off-switch for shares.

See—I don't care that Jesus is Lord. I don't care that a cat made a funny face. I don't care that you fucking love science. I don't care that you love the tea party or hate the tea party. I don't care that polar bears are floating on shrinking icebergs. I don't care that a dog I can't adopt is available for adoption. I don't care that Pat Robertson said something awful. I don't care about a serene picture of rocks with some new age bullshit misspelled in IMPACT font. I don't care that America as we know it is about to come crashing down. I don't care that the Mayan calendar looks like an Oreo cookie. I don't care that solar power is the only answer. I don't care about HAARP or WTC 7. I don't care about counterprotestors at Chick-Fil-A, or counter-counterprotestors at Chick-Fil-A. I really, really, really don't care about anything that's not either in your own words or at least linked with a note you wrote yourself, but if all you can do is click SHARE SHARE SHARE to express your distinct human identity your distinct human identity your distinct human identity, I just don't want to waste my time slogging through the arcane despair vortex that is Facebook in order to read the scraps of genuine human voice buried in all the automatic clicking.

I do care if you're sick, and you can even post a photo. We all get narcississick sometimes.

As for the rest of it...sigh.
posted by sonascope at 7:41 AM on December 1, 2012 [21 favorites]

(well, "disabled" – I think it's impossible to actually delete it)

Can be done, but you have to Google to find a link to the appropriate page, which, as far as I could tell, couldn't be found from within Facebook.
posted by hoyland at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twitter is great if a) some huge news or sport event is unfolding (bloody Aussies gazumping Wales again) or b) you're all snarking along to the same tv show (UK Apprentice was good for that or c) you are following a list of relatively like minded people bored at work and having irc like conversations.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:25 AM on December 1, 2012

"It's weird, but most of the time when I log into LinkedIn I feel like punching everyone in the face. Buncha corporate sociopaths."

Amen, brother.
posted by sutt at 8:25 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mezentian said: Metafilter > "Social Media"

And I couldn't have put it better.

Have I told you lately that I love you, Metafilter?
posted by sutt at 8:30 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was an early user of Facebook when I saw its utility but after the first year I no longer signed in much. This last election soured me on it entirely. I watched one of my oldest friends out himself as an angry old man as he tried to convince everyone we grew up who supported the GOP THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS. His constant barrage made me turn off any email update from Facebook, which is what I used to rely on to get invites or whatever.

And I really don't like how Facebook has become so insidious. My daughter was saying that her high school teachers set up Facebook Groups that she needs to access to keep up with what's going on. And twice in the past year the not-for-profit I'm on the board of was in the running for funds that we applied for through the normal grant writing process and then the final hoop to jump thru was a Facebook vote, where we were instructed to get our supporters to vote for us on Facebook. I don't know why this bugged me as much as it did. Maybe because as a not very big group, we didn't win either time?.

I use Twitter daily, more as a news feed. I follow economists and foreign affairs people. When they read something that they find interesting that they'd like their colleagues take on it gets tweeted around. I read things from the foreign press or scholarly journals I'd never come across otherwise.
posted by readery at 8:38 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually miss old social networks sometimes. It seems like there are a number of folks here who still have some affection for LiveJournal (and I'm sure that when I go look three seconds from now there's going to be an inevitable MetaFilter group on LJ); I finally decided to reluctantly end (not close, not delete; my account's still there and all) mine in...January, I guess. It's too much of a lonely space and I was outgrowing the sort of halfway mythologized life update fairytales I'd been posting there infrequently for some years. I made a lot of genuine connections there--got to know people from other arenas in my life better, got to see and discuss others' writing and art, met a lot of creative, kind people who taught me a great deal about everything. LiveJournal sparked my lifelong love of making and trading mixes and was in a way the catalyst for a wonderful and profoundly important relationship.

I miss that. I used to have a lot of hope that social networks would bring all of this--the meaning, the discovery, the broadened horizons, the cosmopolitan-ness, the friendships, the connection and the genuine love--to the rest of the world. Instead, the opposite thing happened, and rather than enriching our wider cultures, the internet got flooded by all the banality and toxicity and tribalism that's kept humanity in a position of debatable--not undeniable--awesomeness for thousands of years.

There are still vestiges of the Old Internet. MetaFilter is one of them; Second Life another (and even more so, IMO). Even Reddit, actually, has largely come to kind of fill the void. The idea of the internet as a cosmopolitan place where new and exciting things and ideas are shared and built on and created persists. But for how long, I don't know. It seems to have mostly fallen out of favor. I don't get it, really. I want the internet to be a space for talking about interesting, smart things with interesting, smart people from, like, Japan and India and Poland and Germany and my own town and the city 100 miles away and from everywhere, really. A place where friendships and communities and cultures and arts and projects are born. I don't get why you would use the internet only for shopping (though it's great for this) and talking to people you see everyday in the flesh.

The new batch of social media (subtle and significant switching of phrases!) don't really interest me. I literally only read GregNog's Twitter semiregularly and that's, like, once every four or five months when I think of it and go catch up. I'm not on Twitter and I'm not on Facebook except I'm all over Facebook because it's impossible to keep friends from posting photos or snippets. I'm not on a lot of things. I find the new landscape of social media both too centralized and too scattered; it feels like there's millions of crappy "services" I don't want that I should be feeling some social pressure to join, but ehn. There's no substance in this places. It really is like having a crate of Hallmark cards dropped on you--but less even. Hallmark cards can be nice--they show that someone has thought of you, and gone through a little effort to say so. That's nice. I think that's the initial appeal of something like Facebook, but in practice there are much better channels for doing that online and the environment of Facebook turns into something else and I'd rather spend my internet time doing more engaging things.
posted by byanyothername at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh man, so many good points here, I will probably write an update post on Monday, adding points I forgot to mention and addressing a lot of things people are bringing up here and to me on Twitter.

The one comment I heard that has really stuck with me is that Facebook was built by 20 year olds who don't have "eras" in their life like 40 year old me, so they don't see a problem of mashing elementary school neighbors with high school friends with college buddies with old work buddies with current people you share a hobby with. If you're barely out of college, you have high school and college folks and those two circles might have a huge overlap in the middle, where for me all these distinct eras are separate from one another with almost no overlap.
posted by mathowie at 8:52 AM on December 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

Twitter allows me to politely stalk people I admire...authors, cartoonists, scientists, and others too cool to be my FB friends.FB is for gossip and party invites and occasional posting of things I find interesting.I block screamy or annoying people, and assume anyone who finds me annoying does the same. As an introvert who enjoys the ability to socialize only when she wants to, I find them useful.

Metafilter is different, it's my hangout.
posted by emjaybee at 9:00 AM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Not to suck up, but I completely and utterly 100% agree with Matt's blog post.

That is EXACTLY how I feel about Facebook, right down to the thing about the ballet class updates. I even had the same experience of having been eminently Google-able for over a decade, but having old high school and grade school friends literally say "THERE you are! Where have you been?" when I signed up for a Facebook account.

You could explain why Facebook is like that by saying it was made by 20-somethings. But that doesn't explain why so many of my former classmates have adopted it so strongly. They're all in their 40s just like me.

For me, Twitter is like a global cocktail party. Whereas Facebook is like an eternal dreary high school reunion party of the damned, where everyone wants to show you pictures of their kids and talk about that one time you threw up in the lunchroom.
posted by ErikaB at 9:17 AM on December 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

I hear all the cool kids have moved on to tumblr.
posted by Lynsey at 9:31 AM on December 1, 2012

... so they don't see a problem of mashing elementary school neighbors with high school friends with college buddies with old work buddies with current people you share a hobby with.

I don't know, I'm almost 50 and that's what I like best about Facebook. Somehow I think it's neat that I'll post something and it'll get commented on by: a high-school friend, a college friend, someone from church, a co-worker's wife, my ex-girl friend's sister's ex-boyfriend, a grad-school friend of my wife's, my sister and my wife's aunt. I don't see any reason to compartmentalize my life.
posted by octothorpe at 9:34 AM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


@atlassmugged Facebook is for people you know but wish you didn't. Twitter is for people you don't know but wish you did.
posted by M Edward at 9:41 AM on December 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

Facebook seems determined to work itself into uselessness. Mobile interface especially - the "news feed" helpfully hides posts from people I actually would like to hear from, while filling itself with crap i don't want to see. Re-shared saccharine religious platitudes (my profile says I am an atheist). Suggested likes for Tea Party members and WalMart (my post history makes it clear that I support ethical businesses and liberal causes). Ads that show up - both the old sidebar ads and the new, shitty, intrusive "sponsored links" BS - all are for online games (I have a research job and a kid, ain't got time for that shit) or products/services that I can't use (due to geographic location) or won't use (due to personal preferences).

It's funny, because if only there was some way for Facebook to figure out my beliefs, interests, and location, they'd be able to target me with RELEVANT ads. Hey, that might make a good business model.

For all it's faults, at least Twitter doesn't try to guess for me which posts I want to see. I can handle that.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:42 AM on December 1, 2012

I've been mulling over the Twitter is pivoting essay for the last couple weeks and it seems to paint a fairly compelling (if not exactly pleasant) narrative of the direction Twitter and Facebook are heading. The key two points from the article are:
  • Important content is mostly created by media companies, whether they are blogs, television, radio or movies.
  • The main reason that “normal users” would write messages is as a backchannel to discuss media events such as the Olympics, Election Coverage, or a new television show. “Normal user” tweets are something akin to Facebook comments.
I'm not quite so pessimistic, perhaps, but I am constantly amazed by the "social media (advertising) platform" side of Twitter, made visible to me via promoted tweets and the sarcastic comments of those in my feed. A bleach company needs a Twitter account like a fish needs a bicycle.
posted by lantius at 9:46 AM on December 1, 2012

octothorpe - sometimes compartmentalization is necessary. There are things I'd share with a colleague that I'd never share with people I supervise, stuff my family might want to hear that is unnecessary to also share with high school and college friends. But I found an awesome way to do this, simple and easy - I send an email. Sometimes people even reply!
posted by caution live frogs at 9:47 AM on December 1, 2012

MetaFilter has poked you.
posted by Wordshore at 9:53 AM on December 1, 2012

lantius, I thought a lot about that essay too but when someone online pointed out the author created the new Twitter competitor app.net, it kind of read differently after that. This was a direct competitor trying to tarnish a rival, to get more geeks running to his own service.

I mean, I know that's not a charitable read, but I don't think the reality is as bad as his essay suggests, and that gap leads me to believe it's bad blood/rivalry.
posted by mathowie at 10:12 AM on December 1, 2012

I don't have the same negatives about Facebook as Matt -- I mostly see people that I want to see -- but I do have an overall frustration with it as a site/app/interface/modality. I went on Facebook specifically to reconnect with various social spheres of my past, but that was largely because I found myself in a different city, a hometown where I had few connections or cultural/intellectual peers, and needed that sort of comfort zone of my old college pals. It was really good to connect with a few of them. Others seem to just not use the site much anymore, or possibly hid me from their own feeds as I went crazy in this 2011-12 Wisconsin election bizarro-world. I've thought about changing my focus back to twitter -- mostly MeFi-zone people -- but I literally can't keep up with the fun stuff or daily conversation (in a timely fashion) and that just creates another frustration. At least with Facebook I can reply to something from last Tuesday.

As to the influx of corporate pages, in some ways I like that in my social media. It's a very convenient way to keep up with catalog deals or new products. When you expand that to non-profits, say the Bike Fed of Wisconsin, it's a really great way to keep those issues in mind, and there are fantastic resources such as urban-planning pages that I love having in my feed for the constant exposure to ideas.

I had high hopes for Google Plus and its Circles, but it's just another frustrating thing to manage, it turns out, and lots of people stopped using it anyway.

I guess what I want is a service that's smart enough to defeat my own laziness -- so I don't forget to check in with my college pals until they have 3 kids graduating, or skip opening that list of historic preservation feeds and miss the protest to save the building that has since been razed -- but not so overactive that it decides I want to see the guy I can't remember which Dave he is when he makes a dull as nails rave about his new minivan. Yeah, i guess I will succumb to a service that makes some algorithmic decisions for me, but FB doesn't seem to be making the ones that I want, so maybe I just have to start spending that time and taking that responsibility to curate my own experience. Thus far, though, I don't feel that any of the services is really getting what I want or delivering what I want.
posted by dhartung at 10:47 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The main reason that “normal users” would write messages is as a backchannel to discuss media events such as the Olympics, Election Coverage, or a new television show. “Normal user” tweets are something akin to Facebook comments.

Isn't this the purpose of Media Events? Why should the fact that the point of Media Events is to try to rent as much space in as many heads as possible change just because more communication channels have been hijacked for that purpose?

The only change is that it's now perhaps harder to ignore the fact that so much of the collective human hum consists of discussions about Media Events that comment about Media Events etc.

(And no, item, I don't use the term "facefuck" because I think "life is too short". I am, after all, in here commenting on how we all spend so much time commenting on irrelevant shit. I use the term because a lot of "social media" is an obnoxious imposition even on people who don't use it, and because I find it both alienating and meta-alienating. When I had an account, I found facebook alienating for the same reasons huge-noise-to-signal-ratio environments controlled by opaque, capricious bureaucracies are often alienating. I find it meta-alienating because a billion people apparently do not feel sufficiently alienated to disable their accounts.

It's an imposition on non-users because of the little fucking "like" buttons and attendant tracking, all over the internet, and more seriously because people thoughtlessly make possession of a facebook account a precondition for participation in unrelated things (see, for example, the comment above about required facebook groups for classes).

For private communication, email already exists, and does the job better than facebook's mechanism. For publicly posting shit, and having folks discuss it, it's not hard to GYOFB and enable comments. It's also not hard to, say, bookmark all of the blogs one reads. Analogous things can be said about sharing photos, playing games (at least in principle? I'm not sure.), etc. The only thing that facebook does that can't be done in ways that offer individuals more autonomy is assemble hundreds of millions of asses in seats, ready to be marketed to. Everybody understands that that's what it's for, and the only obstruction to using the alternatives is that facebook makes things slightly easier, though not in any sense better, and has therefore achieved a monopoly. (If you GYOFB now, there's a strong chance even your friends won't read it unless you post links on facebook regularly.) It's alienating that everyone understands these things, but a billion of them just go "meh" and keep "liking" shit, etc.)
posted by kengraham at 11:17 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love being able to find out about events that interest me during a 15 minute break at lunch on twitter. My conversations on Facebook with faraway cousins aren't about Sartre, but when I lived next door to them, we talked about the weather and the dog and what we had for dinner. I'm sure there are people who get pissed that the screw gets damaged when they try to hammer it in, but I personally love having a hammer available when I need to drive a nail.
posted by Fibognocchi at 11:20 AM on December 1, 2012

It felt wrong to favourite that comment, kengraham, but there it is. I clicked the little button.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2012

(If you GYOFB now, there's a strong chance even your friends won't read it unless you post links on facebook regularly.)

And worse, if they talk about your blog post, they'll talk about it on Facebook. It looks like no one ever comments on my blog posts anymore because all the damn comments are on Facebook. And that eliminates strangers from the conversation. Some of my best imaginary internet friends are people that I "met" when they left a comment on a blog post. That simply doesn't happen anymore.
posted by COD at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree completely with Matt's sentiments in the original post. Twitter is fun to an almost problematic degree; Facebook feels like a duty.

Facebook seems designed to fulfill a need I don't have. Sometimes I want to share something with one person or a small group of people (best done by email or in real life); sometimes I want to share something with everyone who's willing to hear from me (best done on Twitter). It never happens that I want to share something with a group of a few hundred people consisting of close friends, less close friends, relatives, work contacts and a few people I met at parties.

Of course, this is my fault, insofar as it's the result of my accepting or ignoring Facebook friend requests on the basis of "have I met this person at least once in real life?"; I could take a more restrictive or less restrictive approach. But since the people I'm friends with on Facebook aren't about to sign up to my preferred rule, that won't mean that what gets shared there suddenly becomes fascinating to me; even my close friends will continue to share things with a view to it being seen by lots of people who aren't their close friends, so it'll lack the intimacy of a one-to-one or few-to-few email communication.

What I love about Twitter is that it's something extra and additional to real-world friendship, rather than a bad simulation of it. I follow and unfollow who I want; I burble on about what I want to burble on about; people follow me or unfollow me as they wish. The whole thing is a constantly self-correcting network of people finding the people they want to hear from the most.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used to love Facebook. I was an early adopter; I remember excitedly waiting for my undergrad to be on the list of universities that could utilize the site.

I held on way longer than the site was actually useful for social networking, simply because all event invites were channeled through FB. I deleted mine (completely) some months back. Surprisingly, I still get invited to parties, without having the knowledge that my aunt "likes" Zest soap or denying friend requests from weirdos I met once.
posted by peacrow at 12:17 PM on December 1, 2012

I reluctantly started a Facebook account when I moved to Florida. I still dislike it. I use it mainly to see what my NYC friends are up to. And I post a few Frank Zappa videos now and then. Some people like them some hate them. That shows me who is still cool and who is not.
posted by Splunge at 12:44 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter must be the single largest aggregation of Facebook non-users and quitters in the world.
posted by briank at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

The way I see it major differences are that Twitter is up in the city. Facebook has a nice campus but it's in that horrible location in a bad neighbourhood by a smelly part of the bay... only Facebook could make Google's suburban campus of tilt-ups look urbane. Twitter seems like it has cooler people, Facebook seems to have pretty well-sticked kitchens and snacks. I can't say that the people I know at Facebook are significantly different from the people I know at Twitter...

wait, is this about using these sites? People use these sites? I thought you were talking about working there. These are just government make-work projects for software developers, right?
posted by GuyZero at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Matt's right on about the differences between the two sites.

I've had an account on Facebook since the very early days in 2004 (my university was one of the first on it), but I've largely stopped posting on it, and I recently tightened my account restrictions quite a bit.

Pretty much the last time I used Facebook significantly was during the period leading up to and right after my wedding. After we called the maybe half-dozen people closest to us to let them know about our engagement, we posted about it on Facebook—and that felt like the perfect use of the medium. It was such an easy shortcut. And around our wedding weekend, Facebook again came in handy, as everyone posted photographs and congratulations from the weekend's events that we could see in one space.

I've long been ambivalent about Facebook, anyway, and since then, I haven't had much use for it.

I joined Twitter in April 2008, and by October of that year, I was becoming hooked. In April 2009, I wrote a little bit about the difference between Facebook and Twitter; I'd been tweeting for about a year at that point, and I'd begun to fall in love with the way Twitter foregrounded raw text and ideas.

Since then, the delightful serendipity and weirdness of Twitter has only grown; my disaffection for Facebook has also only grown.
posted by limeonaire at 2:25 PM on December 1, 2012

Facebook is the new "AOL's walled garden."
posted by ErikaB at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ironically, all the anti-Facebook stuff coming out of the Twitterati harkens back to the social scene of high school.
posted by benbenson at 3:48 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a new twitter user. I am trying to write a tweet after every game of my favorite sports team. Every time I write a tweet I run up against the stupid character limit, and then I get to rewrite it and it comes out worse.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and sometimes I miss a live show because I'm not following whoever on twitter. That makes me momentarily sad but doesn't make me wish I was flooded with whatever Jesse Thorn is thinking or promoting or whatever. I find Twitter to be useful for sports news, which is a quasi-professional interest, and I follow some of those people, reporters and bloggers and what have you. Mostly I read their articles and blog posts though. I guess Twitter is good for finding out about content? The content qua content that exists on Twitter I don't have much use for.

I had relatively good experiences in high school and college and graduate school and enjoy staying in touch with those people for the most part. I like to see their babies and comment on what they had for breakfast, with the rest of the old gang chiming in. Matt's article made me sad that he has to live in the moment, that he doesn't have old friends and family and experiences that he values, that fleeting moments of happiness are desirable for him.
posted by Kwine at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hear all the cool kids have moved on to tumblr.

I like Tumblr, but for me it's just The Thing Wot Replaced Blogger. Most of the Tumbl blogs that interest me are made by people just doing their own thing; the social aspect is not really there. I found Blogger way more conducive to being social, and that wasn't really Blogger's top priority.

I like Tumblr because it's full of neat, colorful scrapbooks and interesting (visuals heavy) blogs, but it's not a place I go to talk to people. Right after I posted earlier, I thought, "Oh yeah, Tumbl." I just don't think of it as a social media thing.
posted by byanyothername at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2012

You can friend Friendster on Facebook.

It seems to be really popular in India and Malaysia. Or someone wants me to think that.

Orkut seems to have a sign of life too.
posted by Mezentian at 6:05 PM on December 1, 2012

Put me with Team Mathowie. Here is the key difference between Twitter and Facebook: the latter does not respect your time and preys upon your good will.

This morning, I logged onto Facebook for a grand total of two minutes. I keep a ghost Facebook account because, unfortunately, this is the only way some people now communicate. In those two minutes, I received an instant message from someone I hadn't heard from in months asking me for very serious advice.

Now I'm happy to help people. That's why email was invented and, before that, the telephone and, before that, well, we simply hung out in person and talked things out with each other. (Ideally, we still do that.) But in this case, I had to set aside everything I was doing. Because this person was counting on me to help them out. And at this point, if I don't answer the message, I end up looking like a serious asshole.

So I type in a response. Because I give more than a good goddam about people. And because this is "instant," I have to wait a good five minutes of my time for the other person's response, because Facebook is telling me that the other person is "typing" and I feel contrite and, unlike Twitter, there's no limit to how much the other person can type.

If this had been Twitter, I wouldn't have to be waiting by my computer. A manageable 140 character DM would hit my account and I could answer it from my phone. The 140 character message is a very reasonable unit with which to receive and send responses. It doesn't take all that much time out of your life to read or answer. And you can get the gist fairly quickly over how serious the problem is.

If all this had gone down in real life, I could have had a more meaningful conversation in the five minutes I waited for the other person's Facebook message. I'm fairly certain that anything the two of us said or shared would have instantly cut through the limitations of any technological interface. I'm also fairly certain that I would have listened more carefully, had more patience, and, most pivotally, slowed down so that the very serious advice could have been dispensed in a more considered matter.

But what do I know? I'm some fossil that was forged in the 20th century.
posted by ed at 6:36 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I signed onto Facebook fairly early. 2006 or 7 or something like that. I never treated it like a social network so much as an address book other people keep updated for me. I also use it to share interesting things I find online that either originate from MetaFilter or aren't something I can figure out how to make a post out of. I also use it for communication with people whose principal communication route it is. I never went to the feed, just straight to my profile page.

That was how I used Facebook for years. Lately that's changed, however. The 'close friends' option has an interesting feature where you get a notification (not through e-mail) when people I give that designation post something. That way I can follow my close friends without having to wade through everything else. I only ever go to the main page by accident.

Twitter, on the other hand, I've never had much use for. Not because I think it's a bad service, it just doesn't fill a need in my life like Facebook does (i.e. its address book functionality) so I've never had a reason to persevere with it.
posted by Kattullus at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2012

The 'close friends' option has an interesting feature where you get a notification (not through e-mail) when people I give that designation post something. That way I can follow my close friends without having to wade through everything else. I only ever go to the main page by accident.

Does Facebook not push close-friend "status updates" about the commercial goods or services that they like? It would seem counter-intuitive to their business model to make something that circumvents that.

(Of course, a recent spree of older 'likes' pushed into the feeds of some friends, of a recently deceased person makes me a bit bitter about that sort of thing.)
posted by Mezentian at 7:30 PM on December 1, 2012

Mezentian: Does Facebook not push close-friend "status updates" about the commercial goods or services that they like?

I haven't seen that, no. In fact, because I hardly ever go into the main feed, I didn't even know that was a thing. All I ever see like that is that sidebar that has ads and other random stuff, but I don't really pay attention to it.

It's also quite possible that the people I have as close friends never 'like' commercial goods or services, so they'd never get pushed.
posted by Kattullus at 7:49 PM on December 1, 2012

Facebook instant message can be disabled. I know because mine is, because I hate chat with the hatred of ten thousand flaming nuns. Or suns. Or sunny nuns. Whatever.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:56 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Kattullus: "Twitter, on the other hand, I've never had much use for."

Which is a shame. We all use these services how they best serve us I suppose. For me, Facebook is a "7 worlds collide" scenario, but Twitter is a broadcasting/linksharing/interest following/gReader-sharing replacement platform: it's just a highly titrated 'news' feed, where 'news' is whatever flavour, colour, smell or calorie content you want. *shrug*. At least we have the Metafilter pub.
posted by peacay at 8:04 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am on Facebook for only two reasons - so my extended family can look at pictures and watch videos of our 3 year old (and watch they do, constantly, non-stop, especially my aunts), and so I can pointedly ignore friend requests from people I hated in high school.

Though it was interesting this past halloween to discover my new next-door-neighbor was a girl who was in my graduating class at High School. She is tall and blonde and beautiful, and married to a state trooper, and has a job at a non-profit as a fundraiser. This was pretty much what I expected of her life. It gives me some satisfaction that she's seemingly befuddled that I've a beautiful wife and a charming little girl and can afford to live on the same deep-in-the-woods suburban street that she does, despite being a loser weirdo. It's like a facebook ignore IRL, and it's awesome.

We're very civil and warm to each other on the infrequent occasions when we meet, too.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:07 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Matt's article made me sad that he has to live in the moment, that he doesn't have old friends and family and experiences that he values, that fleeting moments of happiness are desirable for him.

That's a fair criticism, I will probably explain in a followup a bit more about my life so that my feelings on it might make more sense to people. I grew up in a small-ish town with a small group of friends that weren't the nicest or best people. Right before I finished high school my parents moved about 100 miles away to a much smaller town and I joined them and basically cut off from my childhood friends. I got new college friends then later new four year university friends, then later graduate school friends, but by the time I hit my early 20s I realized the kids I grew up with were borderline jerks to me, manipulative and constantly preying on my generosity and I have no interest in speaking to anyone I knew before the age of 20 or so. From time to time they ping me on Facebook and I've briefly interacted with a few of them but it's not something I look forward to or get anything good out of.

The Internet was like moving to another new town, being one of the first bloggers was much the same, so I am drawn to things that allow for reinvention and don't weigh heavily on nostalgia.
posted by mathowie at 8:36 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've gone on about my dislike of social media (everyone that's ever heard of you can see what you're up to and complain about it/get you fired from a job, nobody wants to write paragraphs any more and writing goes down the tubes, it's an annoying exclusionary shitty second Internet, you won't be able to get away with not using it if you want to right...about...now, etc.) before, but I think the number one thing I hate about it is that everyone insists that you have to love it and use it. Not just that you have to have it, you have to USE IT ALL THE TIME. You have to be in love with it. Social media is and has to be The Best Thing Ever. It's like we never communicated online before it or something.

I had an argument with a roommate years ago about how I said I don't like mint toothpaste because I hate Minty Fresh Mouth and how it makes everything you eat after brushing your teeth taste foul. She said, "But you HAVE to like mint toothpaste, you can't get any other kinds of toothpaste! You don't have a choice about not liking it!" (I later discovered Tom's of Maine strawberry and orange-mango, so fuck that.) I feel like it's the same kind of argument. You HAVE to like Facebook because it's the only game in town and everyone has to use it. Twitter is pretty much the same sort of thing too, except minus the list of past rivals it succeeded over.

I miss the Internet where people set up their own web pages and wrote their own stuff and somehow people you knew in high school managed to not notice you still existed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:24 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I miss the Internet where people set up their own web pages and wrote their own stuff and somehow people you knew in high school managed to not notice you still existed.

Or usenet, which was a wild frontier of interests and swirling groups and people and... it mostly worked. That's one of the reasons I caved and grabbed a Metafilter account after so long: this is as close as an experience as I can get to that wide open space these days.

Like mathowie, I've left the past in the past, and I have no interest in revisiting it. If I run into people from my past, fine. If not, that's just as fine. But I really don't care what they are up to.
posted by Mezentian at 1:26 AM on December 2, 2012

Facebook is not a site that operates properly if you attempt to use it as a democracy, that is, give every single one of your friends a chance to speak. Fuck your friends. They are all horrible people that you wish were better, even the good ones. Deep down you know this. Deep down you know the broiling revolving horror you feel at the thought that maybe them being your friends means you're just like them. You will deny this, poor saps.

No, Facebook is the site where you systematically determine which humans that come into contact with your searing excellence truly deserve an audience with you. Do not friend somebody without immediately deciding whether you'll completely ignore their presence, block them on your feed, etc. Out of 205 friends, I see maybe 20, and most of those 20 are set to appear approximately once every three leap years. Every comment by a member of the Outer Rim is an audition, an attempt to prove oneself worthy of my stillunseeing eye. Every status update by the Inner Rim is made in cowering fear of my wrath. The unsubscribe button is but two clicks away at all times.

Facebook is a clique, only now we are all the Queen Bees. We all hold court, make sacrifices, remove undesirables from our presence. In fact, the hardest part of using Facebook for me is when I look at close friends' Facebook logins, and find that they still keep touch with the lessers I have already excised. It makes me reassess my friends' true values. Do they deserve me, when they wallow in the muck and filth of these mean commoners? Perhaps they should keep the privilege of knowing when I post, yet lose my similar courtesy in return. The wonderful thing about Facebook is that they'll never know.

When you stop seeing Facebook as a tool for "keeping in touch with everybody" and start using it as a tool for "creating the world's greatest social environment", then you understand its true value, for Facebook, unlike Twitter, is sort of a universal constant: it attracts not only a rainbow multitude of audiences, but each of these audiences uses Facebook in a different way. There are techniques to using Facebook, mediums within mediums within mediums. Last month I was on an essay-writing kick. The month before, a friend spurred me on to post only status updates in all caps out of a desire to instill some joy and meaning in his tedious life:




The longer this went on, the more attention it received – and we witnessed both the tragedy of those who emulate a style without understanding its underlying philosophy and the supracomedy of the rare few who are able to discern intent, and from that intent create new forms, new methods, new styles. It is an avante-garde without borders. The grade school students are discovering life for the first time, and with it, new ways of exploring themselves through self-publication. The older ones depict a model of living which the rest of us look up to, eminently style-less but dedicated to the important things in life which the rest of us miss, life events the rest of us were too busy staring at our phones to create or partake in. I ignore most of them, because they are booooring, but every so often one of them will like an update of mine and I will think: I am older and wiser now.

Everybody Facebooks. Even those of you who claim not to have a Facebook have one, whether it's a hidden profile somewhere or a Fan Page run by your friend titled "My Weird Fucking Friend Stan Who Hates Facebook". One of my friends – this is not a lie – has a Facebook page dedicated to him for being the tallest student at the University of Maryland. Several of my friends have Facebook pages for their solo bands, wherein you can witness in real time the hilarity of the manufactured identity created by somebody you are certain picks their nose. (I pick my nose too, compulsively, but I am very good at not being photographed in the act, unlike SOME guitar players I know)

If you only use Facebook to document that which has already happened, like Our Dear Leader here, then yes, Facebook is a grim and disturbing place, a "reverse obituary" as somebody else here called it. Yet what is a reverse obituary but a forward-looking fountain of life? Facebook is a site for creating moments, not observing them. It is where you and your friend decide, one night, to record yourselves improvising ballads to every single one of your Facebook friends, especially the least-known ones. It is where you and your two ex-co-workers begin compulsively posting every Kate Beaton comic ever written, tagging the three of you as various characters in order to depict the changing power dynamic. (In one, I am Gatsby, Y is Daisy, and E is the baby we dropped on the floor in our snogfest.) It is a place not for pretending like other people matter, but for creating meaningful connections to people you might miss out on otherwise, in a space where "creating meaningful connections" can happen in a hundred different ways, thanks to the versatility of the site as a medium.

Twitter lacks that. Its fleeting nature is what makes me so wary of it: I've moved away from instant messaging, too, for the same reason. For casual conversations I text, now, and if I don't have somebody's number do I really want to have a brief conversation with them? Occasionally, the spirit moves me, and I am moved to speak and interact and post for a week or two, but then the vastness of infinity touches me again and I am struck dreadful mute by the realization that nothing I have said these two weeks, nothing I have thought, nothing I have read or felt or realized, will be remembered, not only five weeks from now or five months or years or fifty, but in five minutes' time, when Megan Anram has made her next pronouncement and Patton Oswalt's next retweet has rebounded remillions of times. Even the greatest of us there is no more than a speck, less a pale blue dot and more a slightly brighter shade of black, and yes, this may be more true in a galactic sense, more revealing of our cosmic nature, but I am not a cosmos. I am man, damnit, and I reside in the kingdom I call man, among the brethren I call my friends and duly ignore.

You should follow me on Twitter here.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:50 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


If that were true, it would be a GREAT DAY IN HISTORY.
In part because I don't own a dog.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

I decline this offer.
I don't follow.
posted by Mezentian at 3:07 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, if @rorymarinich isn't tweeting at TV's Richard Mulligan right now I will be seriously sad.
posted by Mezentian at 3:14 AM on December 2, 2012

Is Rory trying to buy more followers again? *tsks*
posted by infini at 3:59 AM on December 2, 2012

Wow Rory. Now I *really* dislike facebook.
posted by panaceanot at 4:02 AM on December 2, 2012

Matt's article made me sad that he has to live in the moment, that he doesn't have old friends and family and experiences that he values, that fleeting moments of happiness are desirable for him.

For me, these aren't an either/or. The difference is that Twitter is insanely good at one of them, while Facebook is (in my personal experience, obviously) really crappy at the other. I have wonderful friends from childhood that are hugely important friends today, but it never feels like the best way to nurture those friendships is by sharing stuff with a few hundred Facebook friends. (I know these circles can be managed in various ways on Facebook, but since I'd have to check every few days that some setting hasn't changed without my being informed, why not use the better technologies – email, phone, beer?)
posted by oliverburkeman at 4:14 AM on December 2, 2012

Is Rory trying to buy more followers again? *tsks*

At 14 followers, he may have more Twit-chums than Romney, but still less cums than the "We Demand An Empty Net Reunion" Facebook page.
posted by Mezentian at 5:01 AM on December 2, 2012

Mind you, that was pure hamburger
posted by infini at 6:51 AM on December 2, 2012

I was pretty late setting up a Facebook account in 2009, but I disabled it about a year later. I set up a Twitter account in 2008 but I'm still using it though the way I've use it has definitely changed. I agree with much of what people are saying here and am really surprised how many Mefites have disabled their accounts. When someone asked recently if I was on Facebook, they said it was 'social suicide' when I said, 'no', I'd disabled my account. I find this really funny but I realize that it's also partially true.

Facebook depressed me. Having every person I had friended seeming to communicate in one physical space felt dreadful, artificial and flat (in a way that posting comments on blogs and blogging itself never did). I had a ridiculously difficult time ignoring or turning down requests out of a fear of hurting people's feelings. And, people I've known forever–these wonderful people–now had a platform to brag about their shoes (and only their shoes and never say anything else) or were reduced by their posts to being 'shout-y', 'ax grindy', 'fake', etc. I'm sure they didn't like what I had to say either. Mostly, I felt weird posting anything (this after blogging for years. I often feel that Facebook appropriated a lot of people who would otherwise stil be blogging and it's sad because at one time not too long ago, blogs were the best).

Twitter does not have any effect on me other than it's fun. I can't really articulate why, but others here have said things that make a lot of sense. Twitter is decidedly in the present moment. It's shameless, in some cases, but I'd rather encounter that than the incredibly carefully worded 'glass of wine and bliss' bs I read on Facebook. With Twitter I'm at a party meeting new people, mingling and having fun. But with Facebook, for some reason, I am a guest at my own funeral (I so agree with the obituary metaphor).
posted by marimeko at 7:50 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

marimeko wrote it out for me.
posted by infini at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone: "I started following so many people on Twitter that I started not following anybody."
posted by dhartung at 11:42 AM on December 2, 2012

I read that as Twitter co-founder Biz Markie, which made sense given MC Hammer's foray into e-business. Then I wised up. But it was a confused few minutes.
posted by Mezentian at 3:02 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I was trying to make a callback to this post, not actually shill myself. Thought it would be funny. Apologies. :(

My whole thing was written tongue-in-cheek at 4 in the morning, so I'm sorry if it seemed kind of silly or dense. But generally, I've found that Facebook is terrifically good at dealing with multiple layers of conversation between friends, and at handling the shift between those layers on the fly. Lighthearted teasings that remind me how much I like a person leading to us planning to spend more time together, or "confessional" posts that connect me to people who struggle with the same things I struggle with, help me find a commonality that wouldn't exist otherwise.

Facebook's usefulness is determined by how much you filter people out, which they make fairly easy, and by how comfortable you are using it to make connections with people that don't already exist. I find it's easier for me to have heart-to-hearts into the air without aiming them directly at a person, and I've found that people are more willing to talk to me about sensitive things online than they are if the discussion comes up in a group in person. That means a lot to me, and I find that a similar dynamic on Twitter is essentially impossible.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:05 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's also a generation gap here, I'm noticing as younger and younger "generations" become part of the Internet. I'm of the age where Facebook and Twitter were replacements, not for Livejournal or even forums (though I love forums dearly), but for various sorts of IM. I remember Habbo Hotel being a big thing briefly for some friends, and Neopets, and similar "social conversation" sites. Facebook does what those sites does but even better.

For people just three or four years younger than me, Facebook was the site they used as kids, and Tumblr and Pinterest are the sites that really flow in interesting ways. Some of them view Facebook the way I view email: it's necessary for certain formal modes of discussion, but it's kind of a drag and much less fun. I doubt they'll stop using Facebook for the same reasons I don't stop using email (I wish!), but some of them are even more email-averse than I am. College classes now have Facebook pages that push updates to students, so Facebook really becomes a social inbox and not a social "network" at all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:18 PM on December 2, 2012

Some of them view Facebook the way I view email: it's necessary for certain formal modes of discussion, but it's kind of a drag and much less fun.

I'm not sure who "kids" are in your comment, but it's likely that, if people three or four years younger than you used facebook "as kids", then you and I are about the same age, which makes me feel like I've got kids on my lawn pretty prematurely when I talk about how much I love plain old email.

I've got an address from my employer; great for emails explicitly related to the organization -- most get deleted unread and it's a source of stress, but all the formality is concentrated there, it's convenient for dealing with picayune shit, and it's good for creating a paper trail should I need one. It's also very easy to do triage: everything lives or dies largely according to who sent it and to whom besides me they sent it. The amount of irrelevant information turns out to be considerably less than that on facebook, and there's no real expectation that it will be checked more than a couple of times per day.

I've got an address for professional stuff not involving my employer, which is most of the interesting professional stuff. The only people who send things to this address are people who want to have a reasonably in-depth conversation with me for one reason or another. There's no triage to do, here. If somebody sent me a message, it deserves a considered response, and it gets one, because the volume is low by design. My MeFi comments are sloppy, stream-of-conscioussness TL;DR. Emails from this address are not. When I email folks from this address, I agonize over my responses, and I love that sort of agonizing. Character limits, distractions, etc. preclude this sort of agonizing, and I sort of defy anyone in the frame of mind that facebook puts me in to communicate as clearly as one can in an email where one knows that a specific person with specific ways of understanding and failing to understand things, will be reading attentively (because they know I'll know if they don't). Unlike Twitter, one can write fairly long status updates on facebook, but they're very often shouts into the void that go unread. I can get the same effect with my internal monologue, and it's less carpally stressful. A long, considered, targeted email, guaranteed to be read -- and probably responded to in a considered fashion -- actually accomplishes something more than sitting and ranting to oneself (or writing in a journal, or whatever).

All of this is true of the third, personal, email address I have, too. There's even less filtering to be done, here, because only maybe 20 people have it, and they're all folks whose communiques I drop everything to read (more or less; sometimes the dropping takes a few hours in practice). I've ended up transplanted for long periods of time in random places where I don't know anyone several times; my life basically consists of a series of such transplantations. Without fail, detailed personal emails from folks, responded to in kind, make such experiences considerably less lonely. "Social networking" -- I've been a MySpace person and a facefuck person, and I think at one point a Friendster person -- has almost always made such experiences more lonely, probably because they involve flat little facsimiles of important folks that compete with more satisfying memory-and-conversation-based simalucra for space in the part of my head devoted to those folks. (The latter is partly because those folks are also cutting their losses, and not posting much really idiosyncratic or detailed stuff in their facebook status, because nobody will read it...).

[I've also got an email address that nobody can connect to me (without reasonably serious work), in case I should ever need such a thing, which so far has proved useful only for signing up for shit like public wifi etc.]

There's also a simple and highly configurable interface for looking at all of this email (checking email in browsers is for the birds), I can store and back up messages locally and thus, to a small extent, control information that belongs to me, my interlocutor, and nobody else. I can encrypt my email, if the other party is clued-up, and do so on principle where possible. I can send largish files. I can send messages to myself to remind me of shit.

For person-to-person communication, facebook has nothing on email.

[There's lots of value in one-to-many communication, too, but the type that's on facebook doesn't really do it for me. The medium encourages making noise, and since the noise is often depressing and the rewards for sifting through it infrequent, I'd rather be part of an audience for something else. I'd rather do my own one-to-many communication in other ways, too. In particular, I'd rather make sure that what I spew is either related to what has been spewn immediately prior, or is likely to be of interest to someone who sees it. If some shirttail relative or random uni acquaintance is interested in the content of my breakfast, then they've got a boredom problem, and if they're not, then why am I publicizing it? I guess, contrary to what I said earlier in this thread, I am to some extent making a "life is too short" argument.

You're right that this type of communication has become routine for a lot of people. I find this a little frightening, especially because it seems to affect some folks' willingness to deploy complex chunks of language, and therefore, I think, complex chains of reasoning. I see this a bit with my students, and I've seen this sort of habit ebb and flow with myself.

[I've wondered a bit about why I've been a member of a few different forums where the gold-to-dreck ratio was much higher than on facebook (even when the sets of people involved had large intersection). I think that pseudonymity is involved in some complicated way, although it doesn't explain certain things and is also a factor, I think, in the extreme shittiness of places that are way shittier than facebook (e.g. YouTube comments).]]
posted by kengraham at 11:54 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've ended up transplanted for long periods of time in random places where I don't know anyone several times; my life basically consists of a series of such transplantations. Without fail, detailed personal emails from folks, responded to in kind, make such experiences considerably less lonely.

My friend from high school (in June 2013 we'd be eligible for our 30th reunion) and I have maintained a correspondence since graduation. First by handwritten letters and postcards and birthday greetings, once a voicemail on tape recorded during his night watchman's job during college, and then the internet came. And recently social networking. For a few years we didn't write, after all, weren't we immediately connected by gmail?

Recently we've gone back to writing long thoughtful letters, they just happen to be electronic mail and we take a few days to reply. Its the time spent waiting for a letter or a reply that we've all lost in this instantaneous rush. It was part of the dance or the music, the silence in between.
posted by infini at 12:44 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't get all this handwringing over which is the "best" or which one is destroying our way of life as we know it. Most of the comments here sound like people wanting everyone off their lawn. I am glad you spent so much time manicuring your perfect email lawn, twitter feeds, friendster network or whatever. You have every right to be proud of it. My 14 year old cousin could care less about all of that, she likes facebook. It's not an attack on your style.

This is the internet, a magical land where we can build as many sites as we wish to share and interact with each other in any way we want. Love blogs? Go and blog away. If you hate facebook, but love twitter, that's awesome. Some people love sports cars and hate minivans. The point is, different sites distinguish themselves with different options. If you don't like those options, move on to other pastures.

To address the problems raised here, I think they are pretty reasonable, but all of this is about 10 years old. I think it's a little unfair to expect every problem ever to be known how to be solved the minute it comes up. The companies interested in solving these problems will attract new audiences. If they don't solve them, most likely some other sites will come along that respond to these demands. When that happens, you'll have yet another option. To which the old crew will yell and stomp their feet, and another crew will love. (Instagram is a great example of this happening.)

Allow people to interact with each other however they please, and go about your day. I hope you all can find a way to use the internet to communicate effectively with those who are important to you. Let everyone else try to figure that out as well.
posted by SteveFlamingo at 1:18 AM on December 3, 2012

I don't get all this handwringing over which is the "best" or which one is destroying our way of life as we know it.

It's interesting. The difference between the two sites is interesting to me mainly because, from my perspective, it is really difficult to pin down just why Facebook and Twitter are such different experiences. Then, you get a lot of people agreeing about those difference, so you realize it's there. It's not just me.

When I was still using Facebook one of my contacts wrote a post about how much she hated Twitter. A lot of the replies agreed with her. I recall thinking, but take away Farmville and Twitter essentially is Facebook: a list of contacts (followers/followed) that you may or may not actually listen to who are saying things/linking to things. There are a lot of differences in the design of both, but I think the real differences is how users tended to approach each format (and how it evolved in people's minds, maybe). I see Twitter as 'right now' but there was and is nothing stopping Facebook from being 'right now', except it isn't the tradition of that site to work that way (amongst the people I know, anyway).

It's not handwringing so much as really interesting, imo.
posted by marimeko at 7:38 AM on December 3, 2012

Right. It's fun to talk about, for some people anyway, because we're developing a vocabulary of interactive communal spaces that's never had to exist before, not on the scale of hundreds of millions of people, or in Facebook's case a full billion. Nobody, not even the people at Facebook and Twitter, fully understand what they're doing, or what the result is going to be; there's a whole lot of trial and error. So articles like this both give insight into how people use sites like this, and how they view these sites as working from their perspective.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:30 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I keep oscillating between disliking twitter and unfollowing lots of people (10 reasons why) and being freaked out by how it gradually reduces the world to one degree of separation; but then being sucked into twitter accounts such as those generated by birds treading on a lard keyboard (the tweets from last March).

Facebook, in comparison, is mostly work. To fiddle with frequently changing settings. To keep feuding relatives apart (virtually or otherwise). To remove stuff that well-meaning, and less well-meaning, people leave on my wall or whatever. To untag myself in something or other I'm tagged in.
posted by Wordshore at 6:25 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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