THE BLOG
07/22/2010 02:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Facebook v. Twitter: Is A Friend Becoming a Follow?

When I first joined Facebook several years ago it was for the express purpose the name implies: I was looking to reconnect with some old classmates I'd lost touch with. And it worked. Turned out many of my old gang of high school friends were already on Facebook. We reconnected, updated each other on our lives, and within a few months we had a mini-reunion where we reminisced about smoking and drinking and first loves. You know, high school stuff.

For years, I was a passive Facebook user. I didn't update my status very often, or send friend requests to people I merely knew, and I didn't accept friend requests from strangers. And so, over the course of a year or so, I accumulated about 150 Facebook friends and was happy to log on every couple of days to see what they were up to.

Then I got a book deal (yeah!) and realized that I was about to become a public figure of sorts. So I did what I thought I needed to do: I set all my privacy settings to the highest level possible and created a Fan page, which I then invited all my friends to join. Oh, the self-promotion!

I also joined Twitter, and started figuring out how to get people to follow me who then might, maybe, if I amused them enough, proceed to buy my book (that's what Twitter's about, right?). Soon I had hundreds of people following me, 99% of whom I did not know (I even used the list function to make a list of the people I did know so I could follow their tweets more easily). To me there was a clear distinction: Facebook was for "real" friends, Twitter was for people who shared a common interest (in my case, writing, not Justin Beiber or Twilight).

Then I got this crazy idea. I started this campaign on Facebook to make deserving books bestsellers ("I bet we can make these books bestsellers") (current selections are two great books by Shawn Klomparens -- Jessica Z. and Two Years, No Rain), and suddenly I was getting all kinds of friend requests from people I didn't know -- nearly all authors. I accepted a few of these requests, which then prompted Facebook to suggest a multitude of people I ought to know as additional friends -- they had 24 friends in common with me after all. But the thing is, I didn't. It was more authors, or people who blogged about books. Sometimes people I'd heard of, but none that I actually knew.

What was going on? Had I gotten Facebook's purpose wrong? And how the hell were these people finding me when my privacy settings were what they were?

I figured out the last question first. In starting my group I had made myself visible -- to group members at least. Which meant -- ack! -- over 900 people could see those horrible photos of me from high school that some friend of mine loaded and tagged me in. Uh-oh.

Or, maybe not. I mean, other authors, much bigger authors, were using Facebook in this way. There was James Frey, for example, accepting friend requests from anyone who sent them (I assume, since he accepted mine). Maybe this was what the book business required these days -- not just a fan page, but actual, electronic-friendship with other authors and fans of my work. Mmmm. And why was I so hesitant? I followed hundreds of strangers on Twitter, didn't I? I even had conversations with them. What was really going on?

I realized eventually that I was just clinging to my old passive involvement habit. When the newsfeed on Facebook was only people I know, I could easily keep track of their comings and goings. But on Twitter, where I follow over a thousand people, this was nearly impossible. Unless I'm on there all day (which it seems like some people are -- how do they get any work done?), my feed changes so rapidly that I have to search for the tweets of the people I'm really interested in. It was just laziness, really. So what if Facebook was becoming Twitter? In fact, maybe they could just hurry up and really merge so I'd have one less thing to check every day.