If there was a toss up between Facebook and Twitter, what would you vote for? For most of us who are on both platforms, that choice would hinge on what we use social media for.
Six years on, with over a 140 million users and 340 million tweets a day, Twitter does, at one level, come across as a more non-vegetarian form of social media. It's certainly not for the faint-hearted or the prickly pears, as, thanks to a section of users, ‘Hate' can be accorded ‘Industry' status here. Clearly, it has digressed from its goal to ‘find out what's happening, right now, with the people and organisations you care about' to a ‘devil may care' spirit. A lawyer specialising in defamation cases recently wondered if “Twitter is too dangerous a thing to be left to society!” Sid Mallya's tweet on the American lady was hardly a ‘Royal Challenge' and got him into needless trouble.
However, what was intended to be an outlet for ‘pointless babble' has turned into a potent tool for sharing bursts of information ‘As It Happens'. A potential weapon of mass (media) destruction, as die-hard users who target mainstream journalists would have you believe. If Arnab Goswami has been given the sobriquet ‘Super Chief Justice' by some bloggers, let me tell you that there are countless twitterati who can be nicknamed ‘single judges', for the kind of strictures they pass on anyone they choose. I often find tweets that are not politically accurate but politically correct. And the ‘Quote' Marshall syndrome exists here as well; with retweets modified but posted as ‘RT', leaving the original author open to unfair sniper attacks.
But there is something remarkable about the medium. What Wren & Martin may not have been able to accomplish, Jack Dorsey has. The founder of Twitter has made the fine art of précis writing, that we once used, to send telegrams or write post cards, seem so simple. And so common. There can be no better practice of brevity than the 140-character tweet. Why don't many political leaders who are active on Twitter use the same skill while speaking in Parliament?
What about Facebook? After eight years, 600 million plus active users, and 900 million objects (pages, groups, events), Mark Zuckerberg decided to ask the stock market to put its money where its status is. And quickly changed his own status update to ‘ Married', inviting lakhs of almost instantaneous likes and wishes. That's the beauty of this medium. From the cradle to the grave, this is your social secretary for life. You use it to manage your albums, track birthdays, give someone a pep talk or a poke, share pictures, videos, wall posts and reconnect with friends from your diaper days. The old MasterCard advertisement on priceless photographs can apply to Facebook when some kindergarten pictures of friends are retrieved from the attic and shared on walls.
What I like most about Facebook are the privacy settings. If you are engaged in a discussion on your wall, no stranger can gatecrash and shower invectives. For that matter, the danger of strangers is itself remote. The profile information, photographs and mutual friends are sufficient to sniff out impostors and trouble makers.
Noticed that I haven't listed Chat as a draw? An avid Facebooker will tell you how often it hangs, making good old gtalk a more hassle-free option. And there are issues with adding friends. A colleague and friend for two decades, Barkha Dutt, hasn't been able to add me. Neither have I been able to do that. Both of us get a “Sorry, this user has too many friend requests.'
Coming to my vote, Facebook or Twitter? I'm active on both; a relatively recent starter on Twitter with deservedly a fraction of my Facebook friends as followers. I have to confess a weakness for Facebook.
But on my birthday or wedding anniversary, I'd any day prefer that almost extinct hand-written note.