It's natural for most of us to speak differently (maybe using more formal language and less slang, or vice versa) when we're interacting with different people in our lives — something that social scientists have known for years. I know I speak differently when I'm hanging out with my friends than I do on the job, and I am more careful when speaking with the elderly and children, so as not to confuse the latter or offend the former.
So it makes logical sense that we communicate differently depending on which social media site we are using — or does it?
I feel more comfortable telling personal stories and expressing strong opinions on Facebook, since I have personally vetted, or OK'd each person following me, whereas on Twitter, I'm much less casual, and significantly less opinionated. With almost 8,000 Twitter followers (come join me @ecochickie), I can't possibly know them all, so I tend to share more topical, less emotional, less story-based and less visual information. I share Instagram photos on both platforms, and I rarely get feedback on Twitter, whereas I regularly get comments on Facebook. For me, some of these differences are predicated on Twitter's much-shorter message length — I like the space on Facebook to really get into a topic, especially if it's something I feel passionately about.
But some people feel much more comfortable sharing intimate details on Twitter because followers are just family and friends, or because, unlike me, they find sharing with an anonymous crowd to be liberating. (This certainly seems to be true of celebrities!)
This variability in how we use social media — the what we communicate, and where — can mean that sometimes there can be a communication breakdown. This has happened in my own life; my boyfriend doesn't spend much time on Facebook, so a few times, he has been the last to know about something that has happened in my life. (I forget that I have to send him a separate message.) The good news is that we both like to text, so we have common ground there.
But some people even feel that they are "communicatively incompatible"; according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor of social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (and author of "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other") says, "The idea that I have to monitor my Twitter account, email, Facebook, cellphone and land line in order to keep in touch — and to keep straight how other people prefer to talk — is too much."
What do you think? Too many communication tools? Or is it that you communicate differently than your friends or loved ones using social media, which leads to frustration?
Related social media story on MNN: How teachers use social media in the classroom