Twitter versus Facebook: oversharing with old classmates in 140 characters or less

This entry has nothing to do with my crotch. You're welcome. Today Ian and I took a little field trip to Rich's parents in Richmond (about 1.5 hours away depending on traffic). My crotch issues had improved to the point that I felt up to that much time in the car and was hopeful I wouldn't need any medical assistance through the afternoon. So we threw the diaper bag in the car and took off.

Since we spent most of the day away from the Internet, I had a bit of catching up to do once we got back home. I've been living out of my iPhone most days and only use the computer if I need to type something long enough to benefit from using both hands. I can get to my work email, personal email, Twitter, Facebook, the web via Safari, Flickr, text messages and Ping (which we use because the cell service is so crappy in our house Ping at least means we'll get the message via in house wireless if not through AT&T). I realized I have a bit of a routine for what I check and when.

I check my work email first because that pushes to the phone and usually tells me I have eleventy billion unread emails, 99% of which are SPAM. Then I check my personal account to find out if anyone has commented on my blog or sent me some interesting news (or if my father has another mysterious computer issue that needs troubleshooting).

After email, I head to social networking applications. What surprises me is I tend to check Facebook now before I check Twitter. At one point I said I didn't see the point of Facebook, but now I am getting a more enjoyable experience out of it.

I have tried to use Twitter and Facebook unilaterally and not have "separate yet equal" friends in each community. If I twitter about my crotch, all those folks I went to high school with are going to get a status update about it on Facebook (as well as all those library colleages ... oh well, they're used to it by now). But what's fascinating to me is I get little to no feedback from Twitter versus tons of feedback on Facebook. And for me feedback is a big part of what makes it social and fun. I'm trying to figure out why they behave so differently both for me and others.

Format One of the things I love about Facebook is that I can comment on someone's status and mutual friends don't have to read that comment unless they have also commented on the status or if they care to click on the status and read all comments. I don't feel like I'm cluttering up others' feeds with my "wow, that sucks" messages but I can still commiserate with the updating party. Twitter sticks everything in one big stream and I haven't found an elegant way to get it to show me a conversation. I got a response from someone on Twitter a day after my comment to her and I literally had to go look up the original message because her reply made no sense to me without the original status and other comments. Context is easily lost on Twitter versus Facebook because the comments get separated from the original update.

Like Holy crap I love the "like" feature in Facebook. Many times people say stuff that is clever and it makes me laugh out loud or take note of them but I don't have anything profound to add to their statement. I'll favorite them on Twitter so I can remember to tell Rich about them, but I am not sure how best to respond to that party. Sending an @ reply of "HA!" seems like clutter and direct messaging "HA!" seems ... weird. So I don't say anything. But on Facebook, I can just click that handy little "like" icon and I validate their status update without anyone else seeing much more than "8 people like this".

More than words Twitter really isn't designed to handle more than just text. And the text it does support has turned into it's own dialect because of space constraints. I RTed (retweeted) a post by someone that had hash tags and abbreviations and the end result was sheer gibberish to the casual reader. If I want to post a picture to Twitter, I have to pick another service like TwitPic or Yfrog or TweetPhoto etc. Now that Brizzly is gaining popularity, that makes it easier for photos and videos to show up embedded in the stream, but you have to be on the actual Brizzly site to get those benefits and not out in the field on your iPhone like I have been these days. Facebook gives me lots of options to view videos and see pictures within the stream along with just the simple text.

For Your Eyes Only This is something probably everyone else loves about Facebook, but I find frustrating. I like that I can just send someone to my Twitter page and they can read everything I've said recently. I sent the link to our birth class classmates about a week before delivery so they could "follow along from home" without having to sign up for anything. But even though I've made my Facebook profile pretty darn open, I couldn't figure out how to make my Facebook status list show to anyone without them first having a Facebook account and signing in. My mother wanted to see all our labor and delivery updates and everyone else's comments but she has no desire to be on Facebook (I know ... sometimes I wonder how I came from her womb) so it was a roadblock for her.

Am I the only person struggling with trying to choose which medium is my favorite or what updates go where? I have friends who only use one or the other, but in many cases folks use both and I could see how seeing all my updates twice might be tiring. But I'm getting very different experiences from Facebook and Twitter, both in writing and reading, and am not willing to give up either.

Don't even get me started on Google Wave and how that could just replace all these with one magical unicorn-driven chariot. I'm still not ready for that yet.