Since Google announced that they will be terminating Google Reader as of the 1st of July I have read countless blog posts on the subject. Along with an overwhelming sense of despair, there seems to be a consensus that Twitter and Facebook are viable alternatives to RSS, and are at least partially responsible for it's demise. I don't think so. And here are a few reasons why.
1) Friends post a lot of crap, some of their recommendations suck, and many of them don't share common interests. Here's the thing; unless all your friends are wonks, and they are all wonks in fields you want to read about, they probably post a lot of crap unrelated to what you want to read about. For example, if I used Facebook to aggregate my content, instead of simply sitting down and reading blog posts from The Economist, The Spectator and Juan Cole (etc.) in a clean interface; I would have to spend a lot of time ignoring pictures of kids and pets, and overlooking random check ins. Not to mention I would get a whole bunch of links to things I am not interested in and I would have to dodge Facebook chats. Facebook is great for socialising and discovering things you may have overlooked but your friends have caught, but it is not good for keeping up with specific topics or sources of content.
2) If you follow a substantial amount of people on Twitter, enough to gain the same amount of content you get through an RSS reader (I am subscribed to almost a 100 feeds), you have to wade through a lot of crap and a lot of repetition. Juan cole for example has tweeted more than 15,000 times. I love Juan Cole and I read his posts pretty much daily, but 15,000 tweets is just a bit too much Juan Cole. Multiply this by the hundreds of authors that contribute to the hundred-odd feeds I subscribe to, add the other Twitter people I follow just because they are interesting, and I would have to sit on Twitter 24 hours a day just to keep up with the flow of Tweets. No thanks. I want to get other stuff done.
3) Keeping up with Twitter and Facebook requires the Internet. With RSS I can download my feeds in the morning and then take them with me. I have Internet with me all the time but there are always black spots during the day – the train for example. Plus reading feeds through apps like Flipboard is much more pleasurable and magazine-like than anything I have yet encountered for social media (I realise flipboard supports social media, but it just isn't intuitive).
These are just some of the reasons why I am confident that someone will come up with a viable alternative to Google Reader – multiple companies have already pledged that they will. Twitter and Facebook are great avenues to discover things to read, but they don't compare with RSS for following specific topics and content providers.