Social media has become one of the major resources for information sharing, one where users are able to connect with one another not only in a variety of ways, but also on a variety of platforms that are designed with specific intent to maximize the experience. Facebook is constantly redesigning the format and layout of their website, with the most recent renovation occurring in these last few months. Facebook’s latest “Facelift” has given the news feed section a more organized and clean look, where users’ posts appear almost always with a photo or a link to an article. The new design of Facebook’s news feed is now heavily focused on photos and articles, a move most likely influenced by the shift in users spending more time on Instagram, another social platform that is specifically designed for photo sharing. Facebook has recently purchased Instagram, demonstrating that the company recognizes that photos have become the new focal point in social media.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference in Facebook’s redesign is that this new layout tracks the user’s interests. For example, when a user clicks on an article that has appeared in the news feed, he or she is immediately offered three more options of similar articles, with comparable subject matters that might be of interest to the user. That is essentially the same concept as the online music station Pandora, where the website creates a music station that is primarily based on what the user had initially typed in as the artist and/or band they preferred to listen to.
There have been a lot of changes in Facebook, not only the way in which the platform is design, but also in its latest acquisitions. Recently, the social media forum has been on a spending spree, acquiring a diverse mix of social media sites (Instagram), mobile Apps (WhatsApp), and, most recently, the two billion dollar purchase of the virtual reality game, Oculus. Facebook’s recent purchases have left many disgruntled at the idea that it is becoming a tyrant in the internet world, speculating that it will only be a matter of time before the internet is run by only the top few, most successful and powerful, websites.“There is a significant risk that Facebook loses the loyalty and attention of the teen and millennial audience, as they move on to the next cool thing. It risks becoming a bit of a “social everyman” – OK at everything, but not best in specialized areas such as real-time news and access to celebrities (Twitter), location-based services (Foursquare, Yelp and Google Maps), photos (Instagram & Pinterest) and messaging (Snapchat, WhatsApp and WeChat).” (http://pando.com)
Twitter, on the other hand, has more or less stayed within the realm of their original design and function. Very little has been altered on Twitter- its news feed remains just the same- whereas Facebook as taken it upon themselves to filter out all the excess clutter, resulting that the content in the news feed that once showed every single post or most recent action of all the users “friend” has now been swapped for a more clean and simple news feed that that only reveals the “top stories.” The basic difference between Facebook and Twitter is that not only users, but society and the media as well, view each platform as each having two very different and distinct functions.
Facebook is targeted more toward a user’s connection with other users that, outside of the social networking site, a relationship between them had already been established or had recently established. In contrast, Twitter users tend to follow or connect with other users that they may not necessarily know outside of the social media forum. This may be seen in how Twitter users prefer to follow celebrities or social figures, where interaction with them seems more intimate and authentic, (case in point, Alec Baldwin and his very public feud with American Airlines that was documented, in-depth, through a series of tweets). “Facebook belatedly introduced fan pages that you could ‘like’, but whereas updates from musicians and film stars on Facebook can sometimes seem a bit scripted and the work of the PR department, on Twitter, there’s a direct interaction between celebrities that intrigues users, as well as a chance that a fan’s comments or @replies might get read directly and ‘retweeted’ by the celebrity.” (http://pando.com) Given that, it makes sense as to why users would rather follow a celebrity or public figure on Twitter, especially when it seems as though celebrities are constantly having to publicly apologize for one of their Tweets.
When it comes to the issues of privacy, Facebook allows users the ability to control the level of privacy (and I mean that in the loosest of terms) of what the user is willing to share on the social media forum. Users have an option with Facebook where an individual can opt to be notified when they are tagged in a photo or post, thus allowing him or her the opportunity to either accept or reject the photo/post before it is given permission to be published in the news feed. Users on Facebook can also arrange their friends into different groups, dividing them up into various categories such as: friends, family, work, school, etc.). This further gives them control by selecting which groups can see the users’ complete profile and which groups are limited in what they are able to see of the users’ profile/photos/posts. Facebook offers users a platform in which to engage in longer discussions, ones that don’t have to unfold publicly, given the option of instant messaging.
Facebook has become a vehicle for users to document their personal lives, highlighting each momentous occasion and/or events, all neatly catalogued throughout the users’ timeline. The site has become as a personal scrapbook for users, one where the focus is on the past; Twitter users, though, are much more focused on the present, writing tweets to give up-to-the-second information about their views or thoughts at that precise moment, or circumstances and/or situation that is currently unfolding. Because of this immediacy, news outlets and journalist alike tend to refer to Twitter as a medium to report on a breaking story.
Twitter does not offer the same level of interaction when it comes to engaging in any type of in-depth dialogue. It is more a platform for immediate conversation, quick spurts of thoughts that must be limited to 140 characters. Twitter is severely constrained by the limitations that conversations become merely bullet points. While Twitter is immensely influential in allowing its users the ability to exchange information- often times invaluable information- it is not the proper format for users seeking or needing to engage in casual conversations.
Tweets can also be highly “attention grabbing,” since each word, given its limited space, is usually highly charged. By its restrictive nature, words and are selected based on which would be the most effective in communicating a point or thought. Twitter – with its short and concise messages and trimmed down or abbreviated words- has its own language, one where hashtags have become almost a form of dialogue in themselves by creating a link that users can click on and be directed to that particular hashtag’s page, or be used as just a fun way for users to express themselves.
I remember reading an article where the writer was discussing his views on social media and there was one particular statement in which stuck out. The writer stated something along the lines of how Facebook is a chore and Twitter is a hobby. I tend to agree with this. Facebook is constantly changing, forever introducing a revolving door of new features, increasingly a social media forum that filled with advertising, where every single behavior of the user is tracked and subsequently sold to potential companies. There’s also an overwhelming amount of articles, petitions, news stories, etc. that are constantly asking users to “like” it. And even though Facebook’s latest redesign has given the forum a much cleaner and more organized appearance, it still somehow maintains a certain sense of sensory overload.
The allure of Twitter is its simplicity. Since Twitter first emerged back in 2006, the social networking site has remained authentic to its initial mission, which was to provide a platform in which users can post up to 140 characters. And there is a sense of comfort in the familiar.