For years now, I’ve used Twitter as my means of posting to both Twitter and Facebook. Accordingly, I’ve been reluctant to post too often, since the expectations for the two services tend to be a little different. People happily fire off into the Twitter void a link to every blog post they write (even if their dang site has a feed), a photo of every sandwich they eat, and so on. While Twitter for me is something to keep a vague, occasional eye on, Facebook has generally been a source for richer content. Family and friends share pictures of their kids and post information I wouldn’t get via a more open network like Twitter, and I value these updates. When somebody spams my Facebook stream with a series of Twitter-like updates that I could care less about, I’m irritated, and if it happens more than once or twice, I’ll hide the person’s updates. This is fine if the Facebook friend is somebody whose friend request I accepted to avoid awkwardness, somebody to whom my meaningful personal connection is tenuous. But it’s harder to decide to hide somebody when you do value some of their updates.
Although I do sometimes post utterly useless updates, or things of interest more to colleagues or people I know only online, I’ve generally tried to keep my updates to something of a minimum (if you think I post too often, you should see all the crap I filter out!). I haven’t wanted to post too much lest I put my closest Facebook friends in the same position I sometimes find myself in — with the old finger hovering above the “hide by” button contemplating the tradeoff between valuable content and spammy stuff.
A few months ago, I attended a WordCamp in Atlanta, and it’s pretty standard practice to tweet about everything you see, hear, or think at a WordCamp. After spamming my Facebook friends with my WordCamp updates, I posted an apology and a tongue-in-cheek explanation that it had been payback in advance for the various things I knew I’d be enduring in the coming weeks in my own feed (March Madness and the Oscars, if I recall correctly). When I attended another WordCamp this past weekend, I decided to sever the tie between my Facebook and Twitter accounts so that I wouldn’t spam my Facebook friends again.
And it was surprisingly liberating. Now that I don’t feel like I need to weigh each tweet to evaluate how annoying it’ll be to my close friends and family on Facebook, I can tweet with reckless abandon. I think I’ll start tweeting every blog post, trial, tribulation, idle thought, gas bubble, and so on. Well, maybe not.
But I did take from this decision the lesson that as much as I’d like to be lazy and use Twitter as a single distribution point for multiple audiences, the fact is that the audiences are in fact different, that maybe I ought to expend appropriate effort for each audience (forget for a moment how absurd it is for me to write about audience with respect to my social networking service readers). So maybe I won’t tweet about every fart and burp, but it’s nice to have lifted the yoke of restraint that I’ve felt a little oppressed by lately, to know that if I have a little back-and-forth with somebody on Twitter about something my Facebook friends and family aren’t likely to have much interest in, I can do so without irritating them. Which lets me be much more creative about how to irritate my friends and family.