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Facebook And Twitter Present Two Faces Of News

A Bucket Of Cold Water For Those Seeking Real News

Despite various updates over the last few years making the two sites appear ever more similar to one another, there are still some fundamental differences between Twitter and Facebook which become apparent at certain junctures.

Just such a divide has become clear in recent days following the arrival of two very different news stories: the protests and police action in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ALS ice bucket challenge being undertaken by a number of celebrities as well as many members of the public.

The story in Ferguson has dominated Twitter, with many first hand reports coming through the platform as police crack down on media presence in the town and citizens as well as reporters add their view of events as they transpire.

Conversely, the happenings in Ferguson are nowhere to be found on Facebook. For most people their news feed is filled by the proliferating videos of people undertaking the ice bucket challenge for ALS.

Despite its varied attempts to wrest the mantle of being the number one social media source for news from Twitter – introducing hashtags, installing the live-scrolling feed on the right hand side of the page – Facebook is still a place where people go to learn about other people, not about the news.

Part of this is down to its algorithms. Facebook is set up to show you more of what you want to see. Look at a certain article or page, and the site will show you more of the same. It’s why your Facebook page may look radically different to someone else’s even if you have many of the same friends – everything that you do on the site minutely alters how it will look the next time you log in. In the case of the ice bucket trend vs. Ferguson, this effect is magnified by the fact that a user may view a dozen videos of someone getting freezing water dumped on them for every one sensitive article on the state of modern race relations that they read.

By contrast, what you see on Twitter is governed almost entirely by who you choose to follow. There’s relatively little interference from the site itself; posts are presented in straight-forward chronological order. This means that if people you follow are talking about a certain issue (and the conversational model of Twitter meant that once a few people started talking about Ferguson, more people got involved) you’re going to see that whether you’re interested or not.

It’s easy enough to see this as another slight against Facebook, to say that it’s full of baby pictures you don’t care about and people doing dumb stunts while Twitter is where the real stuff is happening.

This kind of self-righteousness is fun to indulge in – and makes for a good tweet. But the fact is that if you read stuff about Ferguson on Facebook, Facebook would show you more stuff about Ferguson. In that sense Twitter is more akin to traditional media, where your basic choice is which newspaper you buy while the actual content is decided for you.

Facebook requires an active, sustained interest in a subject for it to start showing up regularly. Those criticising Facebook are, perhaps, just a little worried that they don’t care as much as they thought they did.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Facebook And Twitter Present Two Faces Of News Reviewed by Anonymous on Thursday, August 21, 2014 Rating: 5
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