Five observations about Facebook and Twitter. Sort of a part 2 of my Thoughts on Social Media, which you might want to read before you read this.
1. I see people who are prolific on Twitter. I mean, massively prolific. They’ve given up their sites/blogs and spend 100% of their online time on social media, making observations and one-liners and jokes all day long (we’re all stand-up comics now). You can’t even contact them in any other way because they don’t list their e-mail addresses on Twitter. I know some people who have 20K, 40K, 100K tweets! I was going to say how impressed I am by their output, but I can’t bring myself to say that. As a writer I certainly want to be prolific, but not prolific on social media. I don’t want people to say, “hey, that guy sure is good at Twitter!”
I’d rather be known for other things. At some point you have to decide: are you going to be someone who just comments on the art of others or create your own?
2. Have you ever noticed that people who say they’re going to cut back or disappear completely from social media rarely do that? Even journalists and tech people who actually write articles about quitting give in and go back. While I don’t have any other social media accounts, I still have a Twitter account, and I find myself being pulled into its seductive feed. It’s mostly because I actually work in media/publishing and, well, that’s where everyone else is. But I’m getting better. Later today I’m going to deactivate my account. I’m not going to delete it. Who knows, maybe I’ll need it for work in the future. There might be sites I want to use and you can only use if you log in with a social media account. Or maybe they’ll pass a law saying you have to have at least one social media account or you’re fined/banished to the Island of Misfit Web Users. (Update: I deleted my Twitter account.)
I’d rather concentrate on other things, and I already spend an incredible amount of time online. That’s one of the things I don’t understand about journalists who spend so much time on social media (Twitter in particular). Not only is it a time-suck, I believe that it can affect what you decide to report on and how you decide to report on it.
3. A lot of people will tell you that social media is “a great way to keep track of friends and family!” and “it’s free!” First of all, it’s not free. There are other ways to pay for something that isn’t money, like your information (and the information of your friends) and your time. I wonder if people realize that everything you do on Facebook and Twitter you can do in other ways. If all social media vanished tomorrow, you can still send people e-mails, chat with them via a messaging service or text, call them on the phone or write a letter. If you want to see pictures of their kids or their vacation there have always been sites and blogs for that, or why not do it via e-mail, still the best way to communicate online? Sure, if you want to tell your second cousin Dave or your high school physics teacher where you stand on the latest controversial political issue or want to show everyone what you’re having for dinner or want to pass along that wacky joke that’s going around, you may have to send it to each person individually, or set up a mailing list (also, I would suggest that maybe there’s a reason why you never kept in touch with your second cousin Dave or your high school physics teacher before Facebook came along).
My point is there are other ways to do everything you do on social media. RSS, e-mail, blogs, e-mail newsletters, going directly to sites we’ve bookmarked. We did it for years. Somehow – somehow – we all got by fine before Facebook and Twitter.
I’d love to see more people mark their own territory online and go back to the way we used to do things. Why give your entire digital life to a social media company?
4. There’s a saying that goes something like this: Facebook makes you hate the people you know and Twitter makes you love people you’ve never met. I don’t know if that’s actually true though. What I did find is that social media in general made me find out things – because no one can let a thought go without posting it – about people I’d rather not know about. Including myself.
5. Here’s a list of people who would have never joined social media:
Sheriff Andy Taylor