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Facebook Love, Twitter Hate

Apr 15, 2009 By Thomas Lewis

A couple weeks ago I took a vacation that was desperately needed. It was like any vacation that I have taken before. But I did do something different this time around; I cut myself off from the grid for the most part.

It was hard at first because I had just worked on a conference where Twitter use is rampant and I enjoy engaging with folks on Facebook and Twitter (I also use other social networks like Plurk, but not as much as Facebook and Twitter). Although after two days, I didn’t find myself on my phone texting “I just ate at Monkey Joe’s, you gotta get the Triple-Monkey Burger, FTW! #monkey #hamburger”. I think my wife was actually happier that I wasn’t sharing every aspect of our vacation in real-time.

What was interesting was when I got back and logged into Facebook and Twitter. I really picked up on a vibe that I had not really noticed before. Facebook activity was primarily positive while Twitter tended to be more negative. Facebook had much more positive items like “I love…” and “I like x too…” vs. Twitter’s “They left the pickles off the sandwich, EPIC FAIL!” Many of the folks I follow on Facebook are on Twitter as well. In some cases, I saw where the same person (I won’t call out their names) sort of had different personalities depending on which they were using. I became curious as to why this was the case and came up with some theories.

CAVEAT: My so-called research is not based on a controlled study using the scientific method. It is just based on about an hour of research, comparisons and talking with friends in the real world. That is why this post is under Opinions, not Research.

Theory One: Facebook activities tend towards the positive. Much of the news feed is status updates, but it includes photos and pages. Photos tend to be family-related and comments are generally positive. Folks can “Become A Fan” instead of a “Become A Hater”. Most of the pages out there are for supporting favorite TV shows, causes, etc.

Theory Two: Twitter is in the early adopter phase and attracts techies. This is changing as more people are signing up for Twitter accounts and getting more mentions and stories in traditional media. But with the majority being early adopters from the tech world and I have more of the techie crowd in my networks,I find the techie audience to be more critical (in good and bad ways). Since they tend to have the latest gadgets,it has become much easier to take a frustration and put it into 140 characters within seconds.

Theory Three: Twitter is more impersonal. Facebook users I have spoken to have relatives and family members as Friends which probably keeps the snark in-check. Also, who would ever comment on someone’s child trying to ride their bike for the first time with an “EPIC FAIL!”? Twitter activity tends to focus on the impersonal (events, politics, companies, etc.) and it is much easier to throw stones at entities vs. actual people.

So why do you think Facebook seems to be a kinder place than Twitter? What is your theory? Write a comment and tell us what you think. Subscribe to our Twitter feed if you want to stay in touch with us.

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23 comments so far. You should leave one, too.

Paul Dawson said on Apr 15, 2009

The interesting inference drawn from your Theory Two is that Techies are negative! OMG - EPIC FAIL! :)

Shall we call this the Tech Twitter Fail Paradigm Theory? (in honour of TBBT of course!)

discorax said on Apr 15, 2009

I''ve noticed myself doing exactly that. I''m very negative when posting to twitter and then, since I have Twitter update my FB status, I often go on FB and comment on my status to explain in more detail and put a more positive spin on my update OR sometimes delete it completely.

I''ve also dropped a lot of "casual" friends on FB lately. I don''t want to filter my updates and some things don''t need to go to the general public. That''s what Twitter is for anyway!

Thanks for sharing!

Kurt Brockett said on Apr 15, 2009

You are exactly right with this post.

I post to both Facebook and Twitter together as those networks don''t overlap a ton. I''m usually a positive type person so my +/- ratio is pretty similar across both networks.

Another theory is that Facebook status/updates have a longer shelf life (staying on others profile pages longer) etc than twitter which is usually a quicker flow of information. Therefore if your snarky on Twitter it gets washed away faster than on Facebook.

Also agree that many comments etc are on items like personal pictures and the like which are usually a positive party/family/event experience.

Ben Matthews said on Apr 15, 2009

I find Twitter to just be a lot more honest; I share both good and bad on Twitter, whatever comes to mind really. On Facebook it''s almost sickening how phoney everyone acts; nobody is really that nice. Maybe it''s because stuff on Facebook tends to stick around, but it seems to me people just say more of what''s really on their mind on Twitter.

Laura Porto Stockwell said on Apr 15, 2009

Theory three most resonates with me. Look at the research Jenny Preece has done with forum moderation. Self help communities generally do not need moderation while sports/religious/political forums do. I''s guess that it is the nature of the relationship as well as the content.

Sunfell said on Apr 15, 2009

I haven''t ventured into Facebook yet, but I really like Twitter. I''ve seen about an equal distribution of positive versus negative remarks, but I expect that it depends on who you follow. I follow a lot of techies, so it''s a mixed bag.

But I have also seen Twitter used by emergency departments- like during last week''s tornado outbreak in Arkansas. A brave person at the Department of Emergency Management (@arkansasDEM) decided to Twitter updates of storm damage and casualties. So, it isn''t all negative!

Corey Hart said on Apr 16, 2009

I think you hit the nail on the head with theory three. At least, that''s true for me!

Twitter is definitely more impersonal. A user''s profile is very minimal compared to something like Facebook.

With Facebook, those wall posts have a stronger connection to the user posting them because the profile is intimate and in-depth.

I believe it also might be related to profile pictures. With Facebook, you have the possibility to upload hundreds of pictures of yourself, whereas on Twitter, you get only a small thumbnail.

Thomas Lewis said on Apr 16, 2009

Laura - I will have to go check out that study.

Sunfell - I agree, I do think there are good things posted on Twitter. But I have to weed through a lot of negative stuff for those rays of light.

Discorax - I have noticed a lot of people lately doing some pruning of who they follow. I did something similar and found it to be really helpful in managing the flow.

Paul - As always, I love your wit.

Corey - Interesting theory, I have to believe as well that imagery plays a very big role in how we perceive things and motivates us.

Don said on Apr 18, 2009

Agreed. I loved Twitter and found interesting peeps among the Geeks. Lost the Love w/ so many folks working an ''angle''. Newer to Facebook and I would never say on Facebook what I can vent and opinion on Twitter. Twitter may be like a newspaper; editorials and ads galore. The question is "What are you doing". The answer has been ignored, even by Twitters developers.

Gordon Rae said on Apr 18, 2009

Theory Three: you''re following a bunch of people who make smarky tweets. Your choice. Remember that Facebook is reciprocal ( a ''friend'' has to accept you) whereas on Twitter, following is one way.

Daniel Sroka said on Apr 18, 2009

I just went on a short vacation, as well, and when I came back, I had the hardest time *caring* about Twitter. WIth Facebook, I wanted to jump right back in the conversation, but Twitter.... eh. I think it is because I limit my friends of Facebook to actual friends, people I know and care about. But on Twitter, the relationship is so tenuous and vague. I''d say that 95% of the tweets streaming past are from strangers talking about stuff I don''t know or care about. Hard to feel a real connection to that.

John Rutter said on Apr 18, 2009

Interesting to see your comparisons of how Facebook is inherently/mostly positive and that Twitter is more often aggressive/negative.
Got a similar comment comparing Flickr and YouTube on one of my own blog posts.

pixiehornet said on Apr 19, 2009

I think you are right about the different types of connections having an influence. I am connected to personal friends, relatives (including Mom, Dad and inlaws) and coworkers...hence there is much more pressure to play nice. On Twitter...majority of my "followers" are people I have never met...these strangers add or drop me on a daily basis. accountability. So I am free to indulge my "evil twin" and cynicism.

Kevin Makice said on Apr 19, 2009

The timing of your return also comes with a major shift to the mainstream for Twitter, and I''d be curious how your results might vary if you filtered out the meta talk (talk about the medium, or tech). A lot of the chatter on Twitter this past week was in anticipation of a big event (the race to a million followers) that sparked a lot of negative statements from early adopters. I''m sure if you had chosen the week Facebook switched their layout design, your results would probably flip.

The comments about the asymmetrical nature of Twitter is right on. I don''t see it as a loss of accountability as much as an expectation that people will be able to self-select in or out of their half of a relationship if the content is objectionable. Doing so in Facebook is not as easy from either a social or technical perspective.

This is a very interesting proposition, though, and a good base for some real research.

Peebles said on Apr 19, 2009

Glad to find that I''m not the only person who likes - nay needs - to take a break from the matrix every now and again, I''ve managed to avoid Twitter altogether however, even though a whole bunch of my friends who use Facebook have begun to use it quite prodigiously.
Even without any experience of it I do have my own ideas on why Twitter may be slightly more on the negative side than Facebook, it''s related to the early adopter/techie theories mentioned above and it goes like this: Twitter''s full of kids, gamers and hipsters and they like to put each other down - the more anonymously the better but it''s just banter and all good fun until someone loses an eye, but it''s Twitter''s ubiquity that I take exception to more than anything else. Sure, you can have Facebook on your iPhone or Blackberry too and keep up with everyones'' status updates but the model''s not the same, Twitter has been set up so that it''s a cross between a chatroom and an RSS feed - instant, endless, well...twittering I suppose, it encourages constant interaction and delivers gratification in such a manner that I know if I use it once I''ll never put it down, so I''ll never use it. I don''t want to be the person who interrupts my dinner date with, "Excuse me, I''m sure that what you''re saying about us needing to talk is very interesting but well, you see, it''s just that I''ve had ten new tweets in the last 5 minutes and any one of them might be about something that I''m missing on TV right now".

Jeff Putz said on Apr 20, 2009

I can''t get over that Twitter is mostly narcissistic and chaotic noise. As soon as I started following a handful of active users, it became completely useless.

I just got back from my honeymoon, and posted some stuff mid-week to let friends know how things were going. There was a lot of love and good will. Keep in mind, however, that the only people I add as friends on Facebook are actual friends. Why would I want to share every detail of my life with strangers?

Carol Lin said on Apr 22, 2009

twitter has a degree anonymity. facebook discloses blatant identity.. with pictures to match. twitter are unleashed inner thoughts and facebook is the picturesque front we would like others to perceive our lives to be (?)

jeremy wright said on Apr 23, 2009

For me the reason I''m snarkier is simple: it''s stream of consciousness. Just as if I was sitting at a pub with friends. It''s quick, it''s witty (arguable, but so is in person wittyness) and it''s sometimes biting.

Facebook is more sitting at dinner with people you know from all over. So you''re more composed, more polite, more supportive and more *interested*.

Neither is better or worse, both just *are*. And both wear you out sometimes

MaggieMay said on May 13, 2009

I had no clue what Twitter was, but I signed up for it, just to learn what it was, having heard so much about it. I realized immediately that this had no value for me. I don''t like sending the same lame message to everyone. I have an eclectic group of friends and they respond as individuals. Also, I was getting random messages from complete strangers asking to be included on my conversations, which I found bizarre. I feel we are trivializing people too much with this, and contributing to group think, when we don''t exist as individuals. To me, that gives odd people too much credit.

And sometimes, I just wish some people would realize their limitations and stop contributing to word pollution. Our senses are overindulged with meaningless communication these days. Twitter only contributes .additional word pollution. Bring back literature and I''ll be thrilled.

Alexis said on Nov 2, 2009

I love twitter !! :D i love getting updates from my favorite band and the fans !! Definately couldn''t live without it ;]

maham haider maham haider said on Dec 20, 2010

i love twitter

alex said on Jan 18, 2011

I think facebook twiter tits and myspace are all in the top three most pathetic things humans have resorted to its ridiculous u really gota be caught up in all the latest drama and stuff to be for real like let me guess all u watch jersey shore to am I right? Ya it all goes to show how ignorant and pathetic humans are today who cares if ur bored or hungry or tired instead of typin it down get up am do something or eat or go to sleep please just stop with the fb an twiter tits its so stupid

alex said on Jan 18, 2011

I think facebook twiter tits and myspace are all in the top three most pathetic things humans have resorted to its ridiculous u really gota be caught up in all the latest drama and stuff to be for real like let me guess all u watch jersey shore to am I right? Ya it all goes to show how ignorant and pathetic humans are today who cares if ur bored or hungry or tired instead of typin it down get up am do something or eat or go to sleep please just stop with the fb an twiter tits its so stupid