#elegant organisation

The war of private news has just begun: facebook vs. twitter

von , 16.7.09

There is a new culture clash on the internet. It is called status updates vs. tweets. Since twitter programs started to export tweets to facebook, it is haunted. Two different logics of private news seem to collide. Tweets crash upon facebooks status messages, infect them with strange signs and pile up messily on an otherwise neat activity stream. Indeed facebookers update their status rarely, maybe about 2-4 times a day max. This makes the twitterers laugh out loud, because what happens daily on facebook is their speed per hour. Or as the journalist @akreye of „Die Süddeutsche“ twittered:

Speedfreaking on the interweb – if you follow Twitter, Facebook and blogs appear to be incredibly slow. Saves me time to read the paper.

On the other hand some of my facebook friends feel run over and start ranting at twitter.

why does a twitter “@username” make sense when you’re spamming all your friends, all the time, @facebook??? must a # always precede something extremley obvious that me@facebook might #fuckingcareabout?

Why can’t these private news platforms get along?

At first sight facebook and twitter seem to be quite similar. Both make use of a private news stream which consists of rather short messages. But if you have a closer look, you recognize the flow of communication functions totally different.


Facebook is like meeting your friends at the bus station. You show up, drop some lines and leave after a little while. Furthermore it is very well behaved communication. Posts turn into dialogues, where everyone refers to something and finishes speaking – parents and teachers would be delighted. Indeed we can call it pretty humanistic, because it is very human centred communication. An elegant organisation to keep up with your friends and acquaintances in a more and more complex and flexible world. It is about communication to a private public and less about #issues you want to follow – even though facebook is eagerly working on a search engine for its activity stream. .

Re-Tweeting is more important than replying

Compared to the small creek of updates on facebook the chaotic twitter stream is much more used to propose some news, themes, issues or personal views. It is basically organized by timeline and #keywords. Communication between each other is possible, but not the most important thing. Re-tweeting for example is more important than replying. It is an ongoing news stream you can hook up to or drop out whenever you want to, because it is a flow of personal news and views and links that people and institutions are posting which you choose to follow.

Turn on twitter and you will – thanks to time difference – always be entertained, because for sure there will be someone posting the breaking news, pointing out a good article to read, a hilarious video to look at, praise a new podcast or speech you might be interested in or just makes some funny remarks about life (because there is always a reason for that).

So both fulfil different functions: While twitter is about making your private views and preferences publicly available, facebook is about talking to and organizing your private public. Both makes sense: We live in a time of information overload, because there has been a media shift in the last decade.

Friends are filters

Think back of how things used to be: There was a time we had to make an effort to get informed. We had to switch on the radio or the television or buy a newspaper. Getting information was an active endeavour. Nowadays it is different. The news follow us everywhere. They accompany us to work on the radio, free paper or on our smartphone. They have to be looked at during work to be up to date or they update us themselves on a screen while we wait somewhere in a shop. And not only news want to be seen. Every minute we get a new mail in our inbox. People can reach us constantly on our mobile phones. Face it: In the digital world of today we are constantly overloaded with information, and that’s not going to change. We better deal with that. Here’s were our friends come in.

To handle information overload there is not a better guideline than where your friends go or what they look at, read or say. They are the perfect filter for things that interest you, because you share common ground. You get everything from them you are interested in and all in one platform, private news and breaking news, entertainment and useful information. Therefore the time of the private public and the private news just has started.

By the way, it will be really interesting how journalism will deal with this. With twitter and facebook, personal news are read on the same platforms as traditional news. Journalism just learnt that readers can help with reporting (#iranelection) or research (MPs’ expenses). Now we are already moving fast forward to the next challenge: Readers can be distributers, too. Anyway, one thing is certain: The Twitter vs. facebook war is just the beginning.

Mercedes Bunz blogs here, where you can also find this post.

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