From AOL to Twitter: A Social Media Autobiography

The idea that a scrappy startup could dethrone a social media giant is nothing new. Millions of young Americans have left one social network in favor of starting fresh and buiding a new one.

Take, for example, my own social media history: I first hopped online in 1993. Back then, Web savvy classmates dialed up to chat with eachother on AOL. Fast-forward to the college years and I was knee-deep in blogging via Live Journal and building new "networks" on Friendster and then Myspace. When Facebook first opened its account pool to non-Ivy League types I jumped on board with the hordes of other state college kids looking to connect with friends (plus, my then crush already had an account). Eventually, I phased Friendster, Myspace and Live Journal out of my social media repertoire and replaced it with user-friendly, multi-dimensional services like Facebook, and now, Twitter.

My story is not unique. This week's New York Magazine cover story, "Do You Own Facebook? Or Does Facebook Own You?," raised serious questions about Facebook's viablity as the golden child of social media (of course, the piece also shed light on the politics and economy of becoming the world's most popular social networking site):

"...Facebook was clearly spooked by Twitter—and spooked, also, by the fact that we were spooked. Because this is how social networks collapse. Do things feel uncomfortable? Am I oversharing?.... A slight paranoia. And then, for no rational reason, a queasiness sets in, the comfort level drops, and people start to drift away....Friendster had numbers. AOL had numbers. It’s like the Yogi Berra line: Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. It’s easy to join on the web and just as easy to leave."

"Friendster had numbers. AOL had numbers. It’s like the Yogi Berra line: Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. It’s easy to join on the web and just as easy to leave." Eerie, yes. Surprising, no--especially for 20- and 30- something crowd.

Will early adapters be surprised if Facebook is shoved out by its snappy competitor, Twitter? Probably not. Chalk it up to fickle tastes or blame it on Moore's Law, the theory that technology improves and becomes obsolete at an increasingly exponential rate (geek speak for: It's only inevitable that some new form of social media will tickle our fancy), but if this does happen--and Twitter surpasses Facebook in superiority--I'm not sure that the fallout will be of monumental proportions. Afterall, nimble tech users are surely eager to create--and be apart of--the next new thing.

Who knows? It might be something really, really cool.

Facebook v. Twitter: Your Tweets
I asked Seattle mag Twitter followers which site they use more often: Facebook or Twitter? Here are a few responses:
suefrause@Seattlemag Facebook for friends, Twitter for biz stuff.
etherealevents@Seattlemag Great question! Just depends on the time of day. I twitter about work and use facebook for mostly personal use.
Cowbelly@Seattlemag twitter almost exclusively since the big FB change. pretty much over facebook. twitter is a FAR more powerful tool.
SeattleMaven@seattlemag I'm a twitterer ... facebook bogs me down (and separates my personal from professional)
PooperTrooper@Seattlemag I use twitter more often.
dominiqueb@Seattlemag twitter. but i use tweetdeck so i can view facebook friend statuses and tweets together.
Angie1000Words@Seattlemag twitter. It's an easier iPhone app and it updates my facebook status.