At breakfast today whilst reading the Guardian I read a blog piece called Time to cut the Facebook and Twitter clutter, says AOL's 'digital prophet'. The basic premise of this piece is that we are being overwhelmed by digital messages from Facebook, Twitter and any other social media we use (along with news media) and that we need to declutter our digital lifes by unfriending and unfollowing people. David Shing, AOL's digital prophet predicts Facebook and Twitter will wither away like MySpace is.
The reader comments section was full of the predictable "who'd listen to AOL's digital prophet" jokes and comments by people who say Facebook and Twitter suck and comments that say the converse. I think, as becomes obvious if you read just a few of the comments, that people use Facebook and Twitter in different ways and for different reasons. For some Facebook is a place for online communication between people they know and meet f2f. For others a way of keeping in touch with similar people whom they've never met and never will. For some Twitter is a way of keeping up with the minutia of what friends are doing, for some it's for following their idols (e.g., Steven Fry). For me Twitter is about getting a weird interesting newsfeed suggested by a group of people most of whom I don't know but who seem to have similar interests. It's rather random hence its benefit - it surprises often. Facebook I use just to keep in touch with real friends (I have about 35).
There's no single use for any of these services and that's their strength. I don't see them going away anytime soon. MySpace is declining because it never really was about friends. It didn't really provide a social network; it was more an ego thing: "look at me," "listen to my band," "watch my fab video," "aren't I cool and wonderful." Great for bands to publicise themselves to their fans, but not so useful to keep in touch with a good friend who has moved to a different city. Facebook and Twitter if you want to use them that way excel at this.