Twitter, escape from the Facebook junkyard

My generation is the generation of social media, a generation that has a plethora of digital tools through which to connect, interact and share anything with an unlimited number of people anywhere around the world at any moment in time. Sounds amazing, right? It is, but with great social power comes great social responsibility. Let me explain myself: The fact that you have 300 friends on Facebook doesn’t mean that every single one of them wants to know what you are doing, thinking or thinking of doing every single moment of your day. Your responsibility as a user of social media is to not spam the system by posting for the sake of posting. In today’s digital society, where if you don’t have a Facebook you are literally a nobody, online overconfidence threatens to compromise the integrity and purpose of social media. If you have ever found your homepage annoyingly overcrowded with stories or posts from the same set of friends then you know exactly what I mean.

Originally, the purpose of social media — at least at the personal level (marketing/business purposes aside) — was to connect and socialize with those that you would normally not have the chance to because of distance, etc. Today, Facebook is by far the leading network, with more than 500 million users and counting. Facebook is the platform where most if not all of us learned to be experts at digital socializing, and as people learned, they increased the probability of your newsfeed being spammed with junk. The reality is most of us have had Facebook for a long time, and thus have been adding and adding to our list of friends for years to the point that we have compiled an enormous collection of people who really aren’t our “friends,” per se.

Don’t believe me? Go to your list of friends, take a look at your total count and ask yourself, “How many of these people do I actually care about?” The worst part about this situation is that deleting someone from your Facebook friends can be perceived as harsh and sometimes even insulting.

I take a look at my Facebook home page, and I can easily say it’s nothing but junk from people that I wouldn’t have anything to say to if I did ever run into them again, even though we’ve been “keeping in touch” through Facebook over the years. If your response to that is asking, “Why then do I still use Facebook?” I’ll say that chat saved Facebook, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

How to escape all of this junk? How to escape all of the useless information from people whom I don’t even care enough to delete from my list of friends? Jump to another platform: Twitter. If you’re already a Twitter user, then it’s about time someone wrote about this, right? If you aren’t, then you are either a skeptic or you’re just too lazy to stray from the Facebook you already know (change is good, think about it). Moving on, if you’re a skeptic then you either know the platform and have your reasons to dislike it, which I’ll respect, or you’re completely ignorant on the subject. If you are the latter then I’m sure people would take your arguments against Twitter a lot more seriously if you actually knew what you were talking about. Before going on, it is important to note here that the second is by far the larger group and that just because you know what a hashtag is doesn’t mean you’re a Twitter connoisseur.

Many people haven’t made the switch due to common misconceptions of Twitter and how it works. Twitter is a combination of a social media network and your own personalized news feed, and it has the best of both worlds. It’s a social media network because you can follow, share and interact with your friends. It’s your personalized news feed because you can follow accounts like CNN, The New York Times, and TIME Magazine, and get all of your favorite news providers in one place in real time.

This is where we find the first common misconception: Everything that everyone tweets comes up in one enormous feed. False. People’s tweets will show up on your page if and only if you choose to follow them. Another misconception is that Twitter is just Facebook’s status updates and thus is more of the same junk: “I’m soo tired of studying” or “spending the afternoon with my cat Fluffy!” While you can definitely fill your Twitter feed with such mundane information if you follow the same people you are friends with on Facebook, you don’t have to follow someone on Twitter the same way it is expected of you to friend someone on Facebook. In other words, you don’t have to put up with the same junk on Twitter unless you want to. Likewise, tweets don’t magically reappear in your feed because X amount of people have “liked” or commented on them (because you can’t). You can also protect your tweets, which means that people have to send you a request in order to be able to see what you write.

You can also make your tweets public and have anyone be able to follow you, in which case your number of followers can be a measurement of how influential you are with your social media. Note that this means that if you tweet about what you are doing every single moment of the day, your followers will get fed up with your spamming and unfollow you.

Speaking of spamming, believe it or not, Twitter has “The Twitter Rules” that lay out the appropriate use of the website and more than 20 different strategies to detect and eliminate spam accounts, among other things. Over at Facebook, they also have a myriad of spam detecting strategies, but unfortunately for all of us users, posting what you eat every meal of the day isn’t considered spam (neither is Farmville nor any of those other mindless games, sadly). The difference is the unfollow button: quick, easy, no suffering. Let’s face it, going through your already huge list of friends one by one deciding who is going to get cut is extremely time consuming and boring and can definitely get you into problems with your ex.

To recap this all into one: If you are tired of people posting for the sake of posting and spamming your homepage, or if you cannot stand the dumb games, the news of people you could care less about or the hordes of companies trying to get you to like their pages, and you want more control of the information you receive in your main social media platform, jump over to Twitter. Sorry Facebook, but people are starting to get fed up with how conducive you are to junk and are jumping to Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and now Pinterest. In other words, we’re tired of your %&$#!

Álvaro J. Soltero is a junior majoring in cognitive and brain science.