social networking: a rapid? an eddy? a meandering stream?

August 24, 2009

@LindaTietjen today posted an interesting comment about Twitter vs. Facebook and made me stop and think for a minute about what I like and  how I use social networking in general and specifically how I use each of these two services differently.

To use a water analogy I see the whole of  social networking as a river.  Facebook is an eddy, off to the side, somewhat protected and calm(ish). Twitter is a a Class 3-4 rapid running right through the middle. Takes a bit of technical prowess to navigate- and when it gets to be too much I sometimes bail out for a bit and walk around. For the most part, as long as I can pick my path (via Tweetdeck) I even enjoy it and often tame that rapid into a much more gentle, meandering stream.

To get out of the analogy and into reality- although I post all updates to both, Facebook for me is to connect with people and engage in personal conversations. I do have personal/professional relationships on Twitter but mostly use direct message for those conversations and they tend to be pointed, and lead to further conversation in a more expanded venue (Instant Messaging, email, or even face to face or telephone). On a day to day basis, though, I use Tweetdeck to manage the volume and track topics and people interesting to me. I hardly ever read my All Friends feed… it’s too much! But when I use Groups to track the people for whom I want to be sure I catch every tweet, or Search to see what people are posting about topics, it allows me to focus and draw from the stream only what I am interested in that day.

I love that Twitter is so huge and fast moving and continuing to grow.  I love that there are other applications building on or creating alternative versions of communication applications.  I believe that accessibility, mobility (you can participate in so much of social networking by phone) and the resulting spread of these services are making the potential of social networking ever stronger.  In a strong and dynamic network, any of us can draw out the little bits that are meaningful for ourselves.  The presence of the stream allows us to leverage mass collaboration without requiring additional structures or communication mechanisms, and, when that pool is rich and diverse, growing each day, the likelihood is greater that the quality and range of what I will be able to draw is worth them time and energy of participating and contributing to the stream myself.

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