It’s easy to dismiss Twitter as nothing but a tiny subset of Facebook functionality. After all, both feature a text input box where you type a little something for others to see, right? …But it turns out the difference isn’t so much in the text box (though there are differences there, too) as much as in the relationships.
As I wrote previously, relationships on Twitter are fundamentally different from relationships on Facebook. I said, “On Facebook, friendship is reciprocal. On Twitter, friendship is asymmetrical.” To many readers, that is probably equivalent to writing, “On Facebook, blah blah. On Twitter, babble garble.” A picture is worth a thousand words—especially if those words have four or five syllables! So here goes.
Facebook connections are two-way: we are not connected unless we both agree to it. This puts some pressure on you when somebody you used to know wants to connect, and you think, “I do remember you, but we weren’t really that close.” If you ignore them, you risk offending them.
Twitter connections are one-way, so they cannot be called friendship. It’s more like being a fan of somebody else, and is called “following” them. Just because I choose to follow you places no obligation on you to follow me.
Just glancing at the diagrams, you can see that many more types of connections are possible on Twitter. Specifically, it means we do not need a prior relationship for me to begin following you. My experience is that this encourages connections based on content—am I interested in what you say?—and from that, sometimes real relationship can develop. A quotation that has traveled across Twitter sums it up this way:
Facebook is about people you used to know; Twitter is about people you’d like to know better. —Ivor Tossell
Why Twitter? series:
- Why Twitter: Flight 1549 and viral news
- Why Twitter: Conference participation
- Twitter vs. Facebook
- Twitter is not Facebook Lite
More Twitter resources: