I can only confess to being not awfully clued-up when it comes to social media: indeed, my Twitter account dates back to only June 18th. Granted, I do my bit, answering – and asking – questions about homework over Facebook, but I can’t manipulate the public and accumulate masses of followers like some of my dear colleagues. I suppose I’m just too sensible for all of that: I only have an interest in becoming Facebook-friends with someone or following someone on Twitter whom I actually like. Nonetheless, here is my opinion of Twitter and Facebook, from someone who knows nothing about either of them.
It is to my great to shame that I admit to being somewhat in awe of both of these colossi of social media. They have both achieved success disproportionate to their simplicity: Facebook, in its original form, was created by only five college students and Twitter’s prototype by only two. Social media has become an absolutely integral part of society today, with around one billion active Facebook accounts in existence.
Facebook has always struck me as operating in smaller circles than Twitter: it requires both parties to validate a friend-request, and very few celebrities have personal accounts under their own names. Someone to whom you are linked on Facebook is likely to be someone you know in the flesh. Facebook takes in enough information about you to discover people you know with relative ease. Twitter, however, knows nothing about you, and thus it becomes much harder to link real-life acquaintances. This does make locating people you actually know rather hard, especially when the ‘suggested follows’ box has Dermot O’Leary on the brain.
Also, Facebook can provide an actual measure of popularity: a person’s number of Facebook friends genuinely reflects their number of real friends (unless the person is in the habit of accepting friend requests from any old stranger), whereas your number of followers on Twitter only demonstrates the extent to which you are prepared to be mercenary: to follow on the basis of the same without the slightest discretion takes quite some gall. This can manifest itself in some worrying statistics – there are ‘fan accounts’ (accounts set up in honour of a celebrity, typically in the mould of One Direction) run by my personal acquaintances which possess two-thirds the followers of a minor international actor like Sven Ruygrok. Is it me, but does this provide a somewhat worrying indictment of the nature of Twitter? Granted, Twitter is second to none for news: few websites produce a constant feed of information like it. But some of this information is of such a frighteningly banal nature that I am shocked into silence. Do I need to know what the lead singer of a small British boy-band is having for dinner? I really don’t think so.
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