If you read here, you’ll know I’m generally against online anonymity.
Sure, it has its uses, but the rise of Web 2.0 has proven that being yourself on the intertubes isn’t bad, although it can be dangerous. But that’s a different post for a different time.
When you’re anonymous, it’s much easier to be a jerk because the repercussions don’t fall on you. You can troll around being snarky and mean with no consequences.
When people know who you are, you don’t have the same liberty. This is a good thing.
However, the lack of anonymity creates a sanitized experience where people tiptoe around, characterized most obviously on Facebook.
This is a tough post to write because my goal is not to criticize, but rather to point out how behaviors have changed with the loss of anonymity.
Facebook isn’t the only place this happens. It’s been happening in blog comments and forums forever.
I’ve tried to reengage with my Facebook network, but increasingly, I feel like an outsider because I have nothing to say. When I do comment, I get sucked into polite games of “you hang up first”. I need a rule of thumb for when it’s acceptable to stop commenting on a Facebook post.
This has a lot to do with how frictionless Facebook is. It’s so easy to post and comment that I feel rude when I don’t. This is why LOL is the most commonly used word on Facebook. I made that up, but it sure seems to be.
Contrast this to Twitter, which retains some anonymity, and whose 140 character limit enforces brevity.
I’m much more interactive with my Twitter network, and I find it enormously more interesting, especially since I started following more.
First, I don’t feel obligated to read Twitter. I can browse, read or ignore, and search and hashtags allow me to keep up with topics I find interesting.
Second, because I don’t know everyone I follow on Twitter IRL, I don’t feel like a jerk when I don’t reply or don’t read their tweet streams in minute detail.
Finally, because of the above and the 140 character limit, I’m fine with short replies and fine when people don’t reply to me.
The differences between Facebook and Twitter networks have everything to with the differences between the friend and follow models.
The friend model requires acceptance, which makes it more socially loaded, i.e. it’s not trivial to de-friend someone on Facebook. Because of the social weight, Facebook networks are full of strong ties, and even though you could branch out into friends of friends territory, your existing network might not approve.
The follow model is frictionless, allowing you to build a network quickly and test follow accounts with very little commitment. Twitter also exposes followers/following for each account, which provides a nice way to Discover your weak ties.
The composition of your network is directly responsible for how much new information you can discover.
I suppose my preference could be due to effort as well. I simply don’t have time to be the kind of Facebook friend who meticulously comments on everyone’s posts. Twitter allows me to have single-serving friends and control the amount of time I spend.
So maybe it’s me.
Interestingly, this is the second time I’ve found a use case for anonymity.
What about you? Facebook or Twitter and why? Or do you use both the same way?
Find the comments. I’m interested to hear what you’ve noticed.