Saturday, March 14, 2009

Facebook V. Twitter

I actually like the new Facebook layout. It means I can spend less time on Facebook.

Arguably, Facebook has stolen both Twitter's visual style and method of dissemination. Meh. Let them sue each other. The new Fbook layout means I can just scroll down the page, take a mental note of which of my high school friends has started a new job or had another baby, and get out of there.

I follow Twitter. I check in to Facebook. I post regularly to Twitter; every once in a while, I throw a tame, inoffensive, status update bone at Facebook.

Now that they're essentially the same and I can update both my Twitter and my Fbook simultaneously, why don't I merge the two streams?

Here's why, succinctly encapsulated in the New York Times:

Six of my nieces will head off to college over the next several years. Some have been Facebooking since middle school. Even as they leave home, then, they will hang onto that “home” button. That’s hard for me to imagine. As a survivor of the postage-stamp era, college was my big chance to doff the roles in my family and community that I had outgrown, to reinvent myself, to get busy with the embarrassing, exciting, muddy, wonderful work of creating an adult identity. Can you really do that with your 450 closest friends watching, all tweeting to affirm ad nauseam your present self? The cultural icons of my girlhood were Mary Richards of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Ann Marie of “That Girl,” both redoubtably trying to make it on their own. Following their lead, I swaggered off to college (where I knew no one) without looking back; then to New York City (where I knew no one) and San Francisco (ditto), refining my adult self with each jump. Certainly, I kept in touch with a few true old friends, but no one else — thank goodness! — witnessed the many and spectacular metaphoric pratfalls I took on the way to figuring out what and whom I wanted to be. Even now, time bends when I open Facebook: it’s as if I’m simultaneously a journalist/wife/mother in Berkeley and the goofy girl I left behind in Minneapolis. Could I have become the former if I had remained perpetually tethered to the latter?

To me, Facebook is all about the past; high school friends, college friends, graduate school friends. Except... not exactly friends, because for the most part I've kept in touch with my actual friends; Facebook is more like a classroom noisily filled with everyone I used to sort of know.

Twitter is about the present.

What's the difference? On Twitter, I'm pseudonymous, which allows me to be a bit more honest and--which I didn't fully realize until I read the NYT article--disconnects me from the "I sat behind you in geometry so now I want to know everything you're doing" melee. Which, more importantly, lets me control the story.

Which, surprisingly, seems to be a key aspect of the "growing up" that the NYT article is all about.

At Karma Kitchen last week, I was talking with a new friend about whether or not people should go pseudonymous online. He said that he would never go pseudonymous; that it was important for him to build a body of work (even if said "work" was just tweets and blog posts) under his own name. I argued that pseudonymity allowed for the exploration of different identities, which was necessary for growth. (Believing that everything is connected under your own "body of work" leads to presentation rather than exploration.) I started blogging when I was exploring an identity shift, away from the work I had been studying for the past fifteen-odd years (through high school, college, and grad school) and towards something new, with a shape I couldn't yet understand or predict. Having the ability to do that pseudonymously was essential.

Anyway. This is one of those blog posts that it's hard to put a button onto because there's no clear end thought; am I glad Facebook lets me see, every once in a while, what happened to So-and-so? Yes. Am I also glad that I have a place online where I can share myself only with the people in my present, instead of everyone in my past? Absolutely.

And that's why I spend the absolute minimal time possible on Facebook. ^__^

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