Home > Facebook, Social media, Twitter > A billion connections, and a bit of ennui

A billion connections, and a bit of ennui

Facebook’s recent announcement that the site has crossed a billion active users has been received mostly with a sense of inevitability, somewhat like Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century. While it seems like an astounding figure, it’s worth reiterating that only 1/3 of the world’s population has access to the internet as of now, and when this is compounded by the power of the network effect, there seems to be the promise of even more incredible levels of growth. And it won’t be long before the already overused headline of Facebook being the most populous nation becomes a reality.

My Facebook usage has followed a fairly predictable cycle over the last five odd years. It started with a curiosity on what the fuss is about, then getting familiar with the protocols on pokes and friend requests, trying to project a persona, deep-sounding status updates on existential angst (sample: “Satish.. is wondering if there is more to this” – yep, very cringe-inducing), excitedly posting photos of trips, vacations and any significant moment from life, refresh-refresh-refresh to see the next new comment  and generally spending an unhealthy amount of time there. Then it slowly tapered away to my current phase, where I’ve been mainly on passive-lurk-mode over the last year or so. Just a quick browse-through, and not much else. I hardly have updates of my own these days, except for lame attempts to increase the readership of my blog exponentially from a handful of people to a few dozens.

I’ve generally found Twitter relatively a more engaging place to be. To start with, the anonymity it offers appeals to me – unless you are the A-list type with tens of thousands of followers, your tweets just sort of float on their own in cyberspace. I find it a relief to be out of the whole Likes-comments ritual sometimes. Twitter works very well as a zeitgeist of our times too, and it’s fun to watch the world go by in 140 character sound bytes. It’s also helped streamline a lot of my internet browsing habits and curate compelling content from the web – The New Yorker, Roger Ebert, The Onion.. you name it, they’re all there with their tweets.  And then you also find some really funny people there too, I  end up laughing and smiling a lot everyday  – Andy Zaltzman is an absolute riot, for example.

But the key difference between the two social platforms I think, is the underlying basis for defining relationships. Facebook’s default demand that two people need to know each other in the offline world and mutually agree on a handshake significantly narrows down the range of interactions. Also, it’s a fact of life that some people are way more interesting and funnier than others, and Twitter allows for this innate disparity. Wanting to listen-in on people who I find interesting does not imply that the vice-versa is true. At the same time, there are also two-way conversations taking place, where relevant. Many A-listers on Twitter engage with followers on specific topics or issues, I’ve had a few of these too, with some of these folks who I follow. Sometimes, via RTs, you have meaningful exchanges with random strangers who you have never met or heard of. I think this is a much better representation overall of social dynamics than the way it’s currently orchestrated on Facebook.

To me, Facebook of late seems like repeatedly going back to the same social setting where you have pretty much slotted everyone’s personality type – who will say what, who you’re going to steer away from, when to make polite noises of approval, etc.  There seems to be an overhanging air of pretentiousness, and it’s got a bit tiring.

Twitter’s feels more like walking into a huge bar where you don’t know too many people – just hang out with a few of the regulars, but then you’re also equipped with some special super-powers –  being able to tune out the jerks and the bores, magically  listen in on some very funny and interesting conversations happening everywhere around you,  join in on a few interesting ones yourselves. There’s irreverence, laissez-faire.. and it’s fun. Seems unlikely that I’ll go through the over-familiarity breeds-indifference pattern that’s happened with Facebook.

But a billion of anything is a really huge deal, so this is just me.

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Categories: Facebook, Social media, Twitter
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