I used to joke that “Facebook is for connecting with people I used to know; Twitter is for connecting with people I wish I knew.” It used to be that simple.
That has changed a lot over the last three years. More and more people that I have regular interactions with started joining Facebook. It was no longer a place where I would go to see what old friends were up to, it was where I started to go to see what my current friends were doing as well. It became my main method of communicating with all of my friends — past and present. Just as email replaced the phone and instant messaging replaced email, Facebook quickly replaced instant messaging for me.
The same shift is happening on Twitter for me. More and more I find people I actually know are on Twitter. It certainly hasn’t reached the scale of the Facebook shift, but it is heading that way. I think the adoption rate for Twitter was slow because, if you are anything like me, it takes a fair amount of time before you “get” Twitter. As Facebook adopted the News Feed and became more of a “Twitter-lite”, I think more people found the transition to be less arduous than it was in the past.
So, whereas before I could safely operate under the assumption that Facebook was “personal” and Twitter was “public”, that is no longer the case. Twitter has shifted and become more personal, and Facebook has become more public. I still take steps to limit access to my Facebook — tweaking the privacy settings, not accepting Friend requests from people I don’t know — but I found I could no longer operate under the assumption that everyone who reads my Facebook updates fit into the same demographic.
I had tried controlling access using lists before — Family, people I play hockey with, coworkers, high school friends — but found them to be limited in usefulness. As usual, the problem wasn’t with the technology but with my process. Sure, I had created the lists of people but those lists, as logical as they may seem, didn’t help me really control who could see certain parts of my profile. Sure, I could hide posts about my job from the Coworkers list, but there were some people on that list who I might like to include.
Then, along came an article from Engadget explaing one method of using Facebook lists to manage your privacy. As soon as I read this article I knew I had to jump on the idea and run with it. Now my profile and updates are controlled by four distinct groups:
— People I Trust
— People I Know
— Limited Access
I think they are mostly self-explanatory. The difference between “Know” and “Trust” is a subjective one, but I didn’t have much trouble deciding which people went on which list. So far it hasn’t made a difference since I have yet to post anything that hasn’t gone out to the Know, Trust and Family lists, but I like knowing the option is there.
So, my social media life has gotten a little more complex than it used to be, but that is what happens as things grow and evolve. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.