Are you using Twitter to update Facebook?

Monday, March 16, 2009

This will probably come off as quite presumptuous, possibly pedantic, and will surely piss at least some people off; after all, who am I to tell you how to conduct yourself in your own social network?

Good question.

I'm the guy who was glad to connect with you on Twitter. And then on Facebook. It was nice to get to know you. I could follow your sometimes useful thoughts on Twitter, and when appropriate, get more personal by looking at your pictures on Facebook. It was grand! We formed a typical "we're not hanging out right now drinking beers but I bet if we met at a conference we'd get along like old friends" type of relationship typical of the kind encouraged by the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

But now, though.... you know what? I think I'm getting too much of you. Don't take this the wrong way. You're swell! You're interesting! You're charming. But dammit, you're lazy. Sorry. I know you're busy. Let me rephrase that. You're thoughtless. No, wait. That's not right either. Ok, another shot: quite possibly, in the busyness of your life, you didn't give full attention to the potential downsides of updating your Facebook status with your Twitter status.

This is to be expected. I did it myself, about 3 seconds after I signed up on Facebook. It was basic Geek instinct: "Hey, I bet I can hook Twitter up to Facebook, thereby saving myself from typing the same thing twice." You've unlearned copy-paste well. Good for you! Except there's a problem. In doing so, you've contributed to the rampant noise problem on Facebook. Now, all the people who follow you on Twitter now have to see the same damn thing on Facebook.

You've saved a few seconds of redundant typing, but you've created a kind of reverse-copy/paste problem for the people who follow you.

You're not alone. Quite possibly a lot of the people you follow in both streams do the same thing. You're in good company, to be sure. How were you to know any better?

There's another problem. I bet you know about it, but you write it off as the unfortunate collateral damage of your dual-update glory: there are people who follow you on Facebook who have no clue what you mean when you tweet "RT @somedouche [insert completely noncontextual geek thing here]". Nope. Aunt Jenny has no clue. Cousin Sara... she now thinks you're a bigger dweeb than she did when you last kicked it at the family Christmas party. Also, she's learning to ignore you. You're teaching her that.

Do us all a favor. Disconnect Twitter and Facebook. Unshackle. It'll be good for you, your "real" relationships, your acquaintances, and the global technological noise pollution from which we all suffer. FB and Twitter are different applications, with different purposes and most likely different people attached to you. The people in both groups are giving you their time because they think you're worth it. Pay them the same respect in kind. Pretty Please. With a cherry on top. It might take you a few more minutes a week, but you'll get used to it. You'll continue to blather endlessly (we love it, we really do!) on Twitter. But you'll be more mindful about what you post on Facebook.

Your FB friends will thank you. Your tweeps won't know the difference.


jules gravinese said...

Ha! I use to update my status on several services all at once! :)

Bim said...

sounds like you need to try "Selective Twitter" application on FB. It only posts your tweets that end with a hash tag of #fb.

Sam Farmer said...

I agree with Marc on this. Best to use the two platforms in different ways and for different audiences.

iotashan said...

What if I don't have any non-tech Facebook friends? Are losers exempt from this manifesto? :)

Steve Withington said...

you know, i've succumb to the twitter+fb status updates myself and have even found myself _not_ posting so many tweets because of some of the points you bring up. i know my non-tech friends have no frak what i'm talking about half-the-time i post something on twitter. heck, i've even considered a separate twitter account so i can have one for my "non-tech" friends and those who are. how messed up is that?

i think i'm gonna take your lead and untie twitter+fb knot i created.

MichaelE said...

hooray let's hear it for less facebook noise!

I've been using a *great* little app on my blackberry, @socialscope (still in alpha), which lets me post to either Twitter, FB or both, and read both in a little tabbed interface. This is ideal - for me, only about 1 of 300 tweets has any business mingling with facebook status. Check it out - not affiliated, I just really like this flexible, powerful little BB app!!

Marc Esher said...

@bim No, what I'm saying is that *other* people need to do that. I'm not the one cross-posting.

@iotashan You're not a loser. You've achieved enlightment. I am humbled, good sir.

@steve great to hear it!

@Michael that sounds like a handy app. I wonder if they have something like that for the iPhone. What I'd really love to see would be this kind of integration baked into all the major clients. I use Twitterfon and Tweetdeck.

The problem with all the client-level solutions though is that they rely on the "violators" to actually take action. Thus my noise control is still out of my hands. Currently, with the latest facebook iteration, I've created separate groups, and certain cross-post-but-never-update-facebook-directly types go into a bucket where they aren't harming my stream. This is so lame though.

What I'd like even more -- and this would eliminate the whole problem for me personally -- Would be a way to have a setting in facebook that ignored posts coming from certain external sources. For example, let's say I have a tweep who cross-posts. I'd like a setting that would filter out these crossposts but still show posts from that person when they update FB directly.

I know this is incredibly douchebaggy! Like, am I so f'n important or busy that I can't spare a few nanoseconds to ignore all these crossposts? Nope. But I think lately, the noise problem on facebook is turning what started out as an enjoyable experience as just another chore. The terrible Signal-to-noise ratio is significantly undermining the entire experience for me... but not enough that I want to drop it. I get considerable value from FB, but it comes with a price.

MichaelE said...

>> I know this is incredibly douchebaggy!

I don't think so... we have spam filters galore, and can follow or unfollow who we choose on flickr, but facebook seems to still be all-or-nothing in some ways. (why can't you be somebody's 'friend' but not get their status updates in your feed, for example? ... or, can you? )

I thought of this stuff the minute i tried out my first fb/twitter app - it made no sense to me to put the same info in both spaces... I use the two entirely differently, only updating fb every few days at most.

for the record, @socialscope is really doing a great job... surely will be a killer app when it goes prime time. no idea about iPhone ... if not, get coding! ;-)

seancorfield said...

Since Facebook is intended more for real friends, perhaps the issue here is that you're "friends" with too many of your tweeps?

Marc Esher said...

@Sean I'm not sure what Facebook's "intentions" are, though I'd probably say that their intentions don't much matter and one of the great things is that "how" you use the app is entirely up to you.

For me personally, I don't use Facebook for my "real" friends. I see them in person all the time.

I use it more for maintaining and possibly even improving connections to people I A) used to know and have lost touch with, which is probably the typical FB "use case"; B) didn't know before but have come to know, which is the case with most of my "tweeps"; C) Former colleagues. The other group would be Family, particularly since most of my family is scattered throughout the country and even overseas. So with family, FB helps in keeping up already strong ties. But with the other groups, it's more of a constant, light-weight garden cultivation kind of thing. And I think that's a perfectly wonderful use for FB. Just because I don't know them like I know my family doesn't mean I want to ditch them from FB. Quite the opposite, in fact. I like looking at the pictures of your cats! I liked reading Chris Scott's answers to the "25 Things" meme. FB serves to enrich and build these relationships, and I'm thankful for that opportunity to get to know people I otherwise wouldn't run into since we don't bump into each other at the Dunkin Donuts every morning.

So for me, shedding "non-close-friends" from FB serves quite an opposite purpose from *how* I use FB; consequently, it's not an option I will consider for dealing with the noise problem. For me, that'd be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I don't want to shed tweeps; I just want more control over duplicate content in my life. Asking tweeps to at least consider the consequence of double-posting is what I did with this post. Apps like Tweetdeck now providing a "post to FB" option is a nice compromise for the tweeps who currently have Twitter linked to FB. I'd put those things in the "content creation" bucket, over which I have no control.

Since I have no control over content creation, I have to resort to content filtering. Creating different groups in the new Facebook interface is the only way currently to do this, though not ideal by a long shot. In fact, it's ass. Ideally, there'd just be a setting in FB that would in effect filter out stuff coming from specified external applications. that'd be a nice big hammer, but not so philistine as the current "grouping" solution. Even more ideal would be a way to filter out stuff coming from external applications but only from people you actually "Follow". Though if I were FB I'd probably tell me to screw off on that request. So I'd settle for a set of checkboxes: "Exclude Twitter posts?" "Exclude XXX posts?" and the like.

I'm like you in that I probably check FB much more from my phone than from the website itself. The twitter-double-post problem manifests more on the phone b/c you get a much smaller number of items in the list. On the website, 20% twitter updates isn't terribly hard to deal with. But on the phone, it can sometimes take up a large chunk of the available slots.

lunaanil said...

Absolutely EXCELLENT post! I came across your blog while googling "double posts facebook twitter."

Why was I googling this? Because I was driving myself nuts with all the duplicated feeds!!! I don't even like myself that much - let alone expect someone else to! And I'm shocked I haven't been abandoned by some of my fellow Facebook friends.

Not to mention that when I tried to interconnect twitter, facebook and friendfeed, I'm getting multiple posts of my already doubled posts.

So.... trying to simplify exponentially compounded the mess. And made my job easier because I try to go back and delete all the duplicate.

So.... I am disconnecting the cross-linking. Although I may check into the Selective Twitter app suggestion by @Bim.

Thanks for the great post!

~ Angela

ed said...

You convinced me. I've switched to the one that only updated Facebook if I tag #fb. And only that so I don't actually have to log on to Facebook...