Google +: It’s Complicated

Like many other people desperately searching for another pointless time-suck, I’ve joined Google +.

I was biased against it before I joined, and was expecting that I’d need to generate fake reasons to hate it to prove myself right. However, I was happy to discover that I actually just didn’t like it. It was counter-intuitive. Bland.

And worst of all, it wanted me to define relationships. A lot of relationships. In fact, all of my relationships.

There is nothing I hate more than defining relationships. Except maybe being forced to analyze relationships, and Google + wanted me to do both.

From the minute I started putting people in circles, I was getting flustered.

“Well, I’ve known her for 15 years, she’s really more like a family member than a friend.”

“Technically she’s in my family, but given that she’s only spoken three words to me in the past year, I barely even want to make her an ‘Acquaintance.'”

“No.. I mean… of course, we’re not just friends. But I don’t want to talk about it now. And if we do talk about it, I think we should figure out how to forget what happened and go back to being just friends.”

After all the anxiety, I topped off my first experience by accidentally putting my dad in the Friend circle instead of the Family circle, a fact that I’m sure my mother (who could also go in my “therapist” circle) would be happy to discuss ad infinitum.

For some people, circles seem to be the best thing ever. “You can lead three lives!” Someone told me happily.

The thing that I don’t get is – why would you want to? Of course, we all lead multiple lives, but what’s the benefit of breaking them out on a social network? As far as I’m concerned, the whole point of social networks is that you are in fact, screaming into the abyss.

It ends up being a self-selecting abyss, but for some reason, the idea of narrowing communication oneself seems odd. If I wanted to narrow communication, wouldn’t I just send an email?

For example, I’ve noticed that when I post something about my new job, a majority of the commenters are from my old job. But imagine if I had a circle of “People I Used to Work With” and only shared posts about my new job with them. That would be kind of strange, and a little bit obnoxious.

Most of the crap we put on social networks is exactly that — crap. But we’re not the first generation to realize that the mundane details of other people’s lives are kind of fascinating. A friend of my friend just bought shoes for her wedding. Fantastic. Her favorite time of the week is brunch! Wow, who knew?

Facebook is obviously a kind of pointless, recreational, waste of time. As a pretty ADD writer, I love that. I love opening up a new tab, reading lots of completely and totally stupid garbage, including other people’s personal conversations, reminding myself not to flip out because I’m not in grad school, running a marathon, or a home owner, and then getting back to work.

Google + is trying to streamline this process, and what’s worse, forcing us to have that tough, relationship-defining (albeit implicit, and secret) “conversation” with everyone in our lives.

I don’t see how these conversations are going to go well, because, well, they never do. If you have to have the “What’s going on with us” conversation with someone, then the answer is usually bad news. However, if things are going smoothly, you move to the next level without too many growing pains. In other words, you don’t put them in a circle on Google +, you just send an email.

Google + highlights how dumb social networking sites are, thereby killing the buzz.

I have a friend whose brother hates Facebook, and in the early days of Google +, my friend posted, “It’s 3pm and I haven’t had coffee yet.” His brother commented, “Great! I made E’s Coffee Circle.”

For me, this really drove the point home. Which one of us, in Good Conscience, could clearly and distinctly ask our friends and family to care about our dumb, social network crap? Personally, I don’t think I could.

I don’t want to have multiple lives online, that seems absurd. I want to have two lives – one offline, and one online. As a writer, I use Facebook as a way to explore if anyone is remotely interested in what I have to say. However, I’d never want to presume that certain people really care about what I’m saying by deliberately selecting a circle to share with. If there’s something I really want to communicate with a circle of people, I will email them.

Of course, I realize this makes me old-fashioned. People 10 years younger than I am think email is archaic, and Google likely acted out of a fear that Gmail might someday be overtaken by Facebook.

Probably in the future, everything, included the Communication Formerly Known as Email, will happen on Google +, and that’s what the purpose of circles will be. Somethings we’ll share with everyone, just like on Facebook, and other things will go to a smaller group of people.

As for me, if I have to a) lose Facebook as a procrastination tool and b) define all my relationships, I’ll probably just freak out, turn in my laptop, and move to the farm. Or continue to complain, over Twitter.


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