Saturday, March 9, 2013

To tweet, or not to tweet?

People have had to choose between different forms of communication ever since the first cavewoman asked herself, will he know what I mean if I paint two horses on the living room wall, or should I just tell him how I feel? Later times brought new dilemmas: hieroglyphs or demotic? Latin or the vernacular? Telegram or phone call? Email or text? And recently, Facebook or Twitter?

As a devoted Facebook user since February 13, 2005 (according to Timeline), and a newcomer to Twitter - not counting a period in 2009 when I had a locked profile and mainly exchanged messages with two friends who no longer talk to me in any medium - I began with a strong bias. And while I started to learn a lot from celebrities, stripper intellectuals, and brilliantly offensive amateur comedians, in terms of my own self-expression it seemed that Facebook still offered everything Twitter did, and more. Fine, no one appreciated the poke as much as I did, but I still wondered why anyone would want to restrict themselves to 140 characters (and less privacy) when they didn't have to?

I'm still not completely sure (and I still prefer Facebook), but I've come to understand that Facebook and Twitter are like men and women, or meth and coke: some people do one, some people do both, and some people do neither - and these are all legitimate choices. Some find Facebook to be "a shitty boring claustrophobic dollhouse", while others consider Tweets no more than "bursts of mental flatus". I can understand both comments, but I continue to enjoy both platforms.

But what to post on Twitter and what to post on Facebook? That is the question - even if no one answered it when I posted it on-line. The easy cop-out is to have your Twitter posts (or some of them) copied automatically to Facebook. This can be obnoxious because people who read you in both places will have to read it twice, and it's inefficient because any comments or discussion will end up split in half. But if your friends and followers don't overlap that much, it can be OK.

If your friends and followers don't overlap much, though, it's probably less likely that you want to say the exact same thing to both groups. So you can make a choice and tell either your friends or your followers what you want to tell them, or what they want to hear, or post wherever you think you'll get more comments, or likes/faves/retweets, or followers, or pokes, or piss the most people off, or whatever you feel compelled to do.

Having spent a lot of time in a small, friendly academic subfield, my circles overlap a lot. So I asked a colleague (and friend and Facebook friend and Twitter follower) how he resolves this dilemma himself. He said that on Twitter, he's more careful about what he says - it's public, after all - and for posts that might cause mild offense, he considers Facebook. I thought that was a brilliant solution.

Then I realized I had been pursuing the opposite strategy. Or my version of the opposite: if I was quite sure that something would be widely (or deeply) offensive, I'd deliberately choose Twitter. For the rest of my opinions, most of which are somewhat offensive too? Facebook. This way, I thought that two sides of my personality could find separate outlets. I was creating separate personas out of my language use, just like I had been taught. But on second thought, wouldn't my friends who also follow me think I was even more of an asshole than they already probably did?

Maybe I should just post to Google Plus. Or go paint some horses.