Why I think Twitter is more useful than Facebook

Before saying no to Twitter, do you understand how it can be more useful to your life than Facebook?

I’ve been on Facebook since mid-2006. Since then, the social networking giant has dramatically changed many of its policies on how people share their lives online. Over the years I’ve began to disagree with some of their methods. Thus, I’ve started removing much of my information from the social networking giant.

On the flip-side, I’ve been on Twitter since March of 2009 and I have found that Twitter is far more useful than Facebook and offers a better sense of security.

I’ve had this argument with friends many times, so I figured it was about time I’d write something about it to get a little debate going. From my perspective, most of us are no stranger to Facebook. It is true to say that most of my friends are on Facebook and they use Twitter much less.

I believe people misunderstand the usefulness of Twitter and I also believe that there are many Facebook users who would benefit from joining Twitter. This post has been written from my perspective and states my observations of the two social networking platforms. Feel free to leave comments and start up a debate.

The purpose of Facebook

The present day purpose of Facebook is to allow you to connect with friends, family and co-workers online. It allows you to share pictures and links, message one another, and share personal information such as your birth date, sexual orientation, relationship status… etc.

Becoming friends on Facebook is a mutual, two-way process. Someone needs to request the friendship and then the opposite party has to confirm it. For the most part, unless you micromanage your privacy settings, the default settings of your basic information on Facebook are open to anyone on the social networking site to view. Many users are unaware of what information about themselves can be displayed to prying eyes. After becoming a Facebook friend, friends are now able to view photos of each other as well as comment on each other posts.

The problem with Facebook

Being a Facebook friend with another user gives you the opportunity to do a commonly known term called “Facebook Creep” or “Facebook Stalk’. Today, you can view two other users’ interactions on Facebook with the new Friendship feature. This includes wall messages, pictures, links, and events. It allows a user’s friends to get a feel for what the two users have been up to lately. I personally find this feature creepy and revealing. I think it generates a bit too much information about you. It is scary to think of how much information Facebook is retaining about you.

I think any Facebook user would be naïve to say they have never “Facebook Stalked” one of their friends. People are curious as to what their friends have been up to.

Another issue I have with Facebook is the amount of “crap” that you see with the newsfeed. You get a mix of the following:

  • Photos, comments on photos,
  • Status updates, comments on status updates,
  • Wall updates, comments on wall updates,
  • Links, comments on links,
  • Facebook games (such as Farmville),
  • Events, and
  • Much more random information you don’t care about.

Although some of these updates are important, the majority of the time, many of these things are useless. If you want to amuse yourself with extreme situations of completely useless Facebook status updates. Head over to lamebook.com and enjoy.

Comparing to Twitter

Now some of you are probably thinking…well Twitter must have useless information on it too and I would not disagree. There are users who tweet stupid things…or things that I am not interested in. The difference with Twitter is that you can choose whose status updates you see and whose you don’t see; it does not have to be a mutual agreement between the two users. If you get tired of seeing a particular user, then you can simply un-follow them.

By default, your “tweets” are public and available to anyone who looks up your username. Twitter informs users right away during registration with a simple page that displays all your account information. Your tweets are also searchable with Twitter’s search engine which the world has access to as well.

Twitter’s “news feed” is called the “timeline”.

The timeline is text-only and provides no visual sequences other than the user’s avatar. It’s clean and simple and if the user wishes to share something that can’t be represented by text or within 140 characters, they usually provide a link that users can read further into.

Essentially, Twitter displays news headline and if you are more interested in the topic, you may simply run a search or ask the originating user for more information through a “mention”. Remember, you do not need to be mutual friends for this to happen.

The Purpose of Twitter

A 140 character restriction is something you must adhere to! You have to cram a message, link to a website, or photo into this restriction. Each “tweet” is time-stamped and broadcasted online.

Twitter users are generally aware that their tweets are visible to the world unless they’ve made them private. I find this gives their tweets a different character than Facebook status updates. Tweets are often more to-the-point and are much more difficult to stalk. It is possible to view tweets between two users but it is not as easy as Facebook’s friendship feature. Twitter users must line up timelines and match time-stamps. It can get quite tedius.

Twitter’s greatest asset

In my opinion, the best feature of Twitter is the ability to use tweets to crowdsource. Crowdsourcing is the use of information from a large group of people to gather information about a particular task or event. Since Twitter has 190 million users who send 95 million tweets a day, it is very easy to find out instant information about a particular event happening in real time. News agencies now monitor Twitter to report breaking news around the world.

There are multiple ways to perform a search using Twitter. You may simply go to www.twitter.com and do a quick search or click a trending topic. Another website which shows common keywords on the “twitter sphere”, as I like to call it, is Twitscoop.

My favourite website for performing Twitter searches is Tweetgrid. This site provides you different layouts which provide a specific number of search queries. You can query multiple terms and have them be displayed in real-time, all within the same window.

Here are a few examples of using Twitter for searching:

As a Vancouver Canucks fan, I am sometimes curious to see what other users are thinking about the game. By using Tweetgrid, I usually search the hashtag for the team we are playing against. For example, on December 1st, 2010, the Vancouver Canucks played the Calgary Flames. I fired up Tweetgrid and searched #canucks and #flames in separate boxes. This allowed me to see what other users are tweeting about during the game. Here is the direct link to my search.

Transit is a prime example of using Twitter to access more information about a particular event. Pedestrians taking public transit do not have access to a FM/AM radio in order to receive traffic updates. Many turn to Twitter to become aware of issues during their commute. In Vancouver, BC., TransLink, the governing body of transit in the Greater Vancouver Area, launched a pilot project to use Twitter (@translink) to inform users of bus and train conditions, as well as a method for users to ask them about service issues or file complaints. Generally, you can also follow other users in Vancouver reporting on issues with transit with the #translink hashtag.

Keep in mind that this is my perspective on why I like using twitter. I’m curious to hear what you think. Leave a comment or tweet me at (@hestonk).

Further Reading:

There are some interesting posts regarding the debate between the two social giants.

@stevethorton wrote this article in January, 2009. He compares Twitter to Google and Facebook to Yahoo – Facebook VS Twitter

A more recent article by Damian Koblintz, Nov 22nd 2010 compares the meaning behind Facebook status updates and Twitter. Twitter vs Facebook – the final reckoning | Vertical Leap Blog

15 thoughts on “Why I think Twitter is more useful than Facebook”

  1. You make a great argument for Twitter, Heston, and I agree with you. (You didn’t mention how visually god-awful Tweet Grid is though.)

    The problem is I have so few friends on Twitter that I don’t get much out of it. This is the same mentality I’m sure most of my Facebook friends would have if I convinced them to register a Twitter account. New users trickle in and trickle out because Twitter is so much less relevant and active to them than Facebook, right? Unless I managed to convert 50 mutual friends and have them all post an update at once, new users don’t have the instant gratification of seeing a packed timeline of interesting updates. So if Facebook works for them, they have no reason to switch. I do wish there way some way to get my Facebook friends on Twitter—mainly for the reasons in your bullet list.

    Perhaps the texting shortcode was the reason Twitter became prevalent in the US so quickly. Since smartphones were much more rare in that time, users couldn’t check Facebook remotely, and Twitter offered the perfect solution to be socially connected everywhere. Do you think Canada being so late to have a shortcode has anything to do with it?

  2. True, Tweetgrid isnt the nicest thing to look at. I would say its main use is for information.

    I would definitely agree with you, that newcomers to twitter find it difficult to figure out whats going on. I guess its safe to say that twitter has a steep learning curve. I think the only way of getting your friends onto twitter is by persuasion and by showing them how it works and how it can be useful!

    I don’t think the shortcode has a whole lot to do with it. I’m not sure which one of facebook/twitter offered a shortcode first, but from my understanding, they both operate in similar fashions now. (I don’t use shortcodes still).
    It could be, in general, the media adoption in Canada…after-all, I think we’re generally slower at introducing the latest and greatest means in terms of technology and etc.

  3. Heston, you have created a nicely structured thesis, though I have to side with Marc regarding momentum. How would you kick start the use of Twitter amongst your social group?

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